The Dodgers (20-13) wrap up their California road trip in San Diego with a three-game series vs. the Padres (18-14) starting Friday night. After dropping the series finale against the Giants in San Francisco, the Boys In Blue return to So Cal looking for their first win in May.
The Padres are, dare I say, a young and fun team. Their pitching staff may be the youngest in baseball, but they’ve been really good. The Padres have won seven of their last 10 games after splitting a four-game series with the Braves. The starting rotation for the Dodgers has a 3.41 ERA and the Padres starters have a 3.42 ERA, good for third and fourth in the NL. The San Diego bullpen has fared better (3.72 ERA) than the Dodgers (4.70 ERA).
The Dodgers’ offense has made up for the bullpen shortcomings, but the Padres’ offense has been striking out at a league-high pace (26.8%). They already have racked up over 300 strikeouts. The Dodgers are striking out a lot less (20.9%). That stat surprised me a bit. They also walk a lot (11.1 BB%). We’ve seen some long at-bats this season. There’s been a noticeable improvement in plate discipline for the Dodgers’ offense. The team .859 OPS is nearly 100 points higher than last season’s marks. That’s a promising sign even if it’s not sustainable.
Clayton Kershaw (1-0, 2.25 ERA, 2.92 FIP) makes his fourth start of the season. The Dodgers’ ace isn’t throwing as hard as he used to, but he’s been able to utilize his entire arsenal of pitches to continue to be effective. When his slider is sharp, he’s as dominant as ever. He’s continued using his slider (41.2%) slightly more than his fastball (40.4%). The veteran lefty has also increased the use of his breaking pitches including his curveball (18.4%). Kershaw’s average fastball velocity is at a career low (90.4 mph), but he’s still striking out batters (28.8% strikeout percentage). He’s struck out 21 batters and walked four in 20 innings of work this year since returning from the injured list.
Kersh’s first three starts have been good. Last time out against the Pirates, Kershaw struck out a season-high eight batters and walked none in seven innings. He allowed one run on four hits on 101 pitches, capturing his first win of 2019. Kershaw is 18-6 with a 1.90 ERA and 0.975 WHIP in 34 career starts against the Padres. At Petco Park, he’s 8-2 with a 1.60 ERA and has only allowed five home runs in San Diego ( 89.2 IP).
Eric Hosmer is 5-for-15 with a home run against Kershaw. Kersh will also face old friend Manny Machado for the first time. Machado has had a slow start to the season and is only slashing .235/.318/.391/.709 with only eight extra-base hits (five home runs and two doubles).
Unfortunately, on the flip side, Corey Seager‘s struggling for the Dodgers right now as well. His numbers (.228/.323/.351/.674 with five home runs) aren’t far off from Machado. Although Machado isn’t coming off of two major surgeries. While both infielders are struggling at the plate, I expect them to be impact players on each of their respective teams in the NL West for years to come.
Eric Lauer (2-3, 4.41 ERA, 4.26), the young left-hander, makes his seventh start of the year for the Friars. He’s yet to pitch more than five or six innings. Last time out against the Nationals, he allowed two runs on two hits with six strikeouts and three walks in 5.2 innings for a no-decision. Lauer will be one of three left-handers the Padres will pit against the Dodgers. He’s had mixed results against the Dodgers in the three starts he’s had against them. Lauer has a good record 3-0 with a 0.92 ERA, but he’s allowed 15 hits and 5 walks in 19.2 innings with a 1.017 WHIP against L.A. hitters.
Cody Bellinger, unsurprisingly, has the most hits (3) against Lauer. He’s 3-for-6 with a double against Lauer who’s only a little over a month older than Bellinger. Belli plays at first, batting second in tonight’s lineup. Joc Pederson gets the start against the lefty. He only has two hits vs. LHP this year in his limited 14 plate appearances against them.
It’s a bummer that we won’t get to see top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. this series. He was placed on the 10-day IL this week with a left hamstring strain.
A.J. Pollock‘s elbow procedure went as planned.
I’m all for the return of the brown Padres uniforms…
…but this is taking the brown motif to another level.