Dodgers @ Rays May 21, 2019: Kershaw’s first career start at Tropicana Field

The first-place Dodgers (31-17) open a five-game road trip in Tampa Bay on Tuesday with a brief two-game inter-league series against the Rays (27-17). The Boys in Blue bring the best record in the NL to Florida. They’ve won nine of their last 12 games.

 
Dodgers
   
Rays
 
4:10 p.m. PT
   
Tampa Bay
DH
Beaty  
DH
Meadows
1B
Muncy  
LF
Pham
3B Turner  
1B
Choi
RF
Bellinger  
RF
Garcia
2B
Hernandez  
C
D’Arnaud
SS
Seager  
2B
Lowe
LF
Taylor   3B Robertson
CF
Verdugo  
CF
Heredia
C
Barnes
 
SS
Adames
P
Kershaw (L)
 
P
Wood (R)

Clayton Kershaw (3-0, 3.40 ERA, 4.10 FIP) faces the Rays for the first time since 2013. The supreme left-hander vies for his third straight win in the series opener, Kershaw’s first career start at Tropicana Field. Last time out against the Padres, Kershaw allowed three runs on five hits with five strikeouts and a walk in seven innings and 98 pitches. Although he hasn’t faced many of the current Rays’ players, he’s historically fared well in inter-league play with a 17-4 record and 2.14 ERA and 0.929 WHIP in 35 career starts vs. AL opponents.

Kershaw’s Achilles’ heel has been the home run ball. He’s allowed seven homers in 39.2 innings. His 1.6 HR/9 is a full point higher than his career average. Other than the uptick in home runs, Kershaw has looked a lot like 2018 Kershaw. When his slider is sharp, it’s compensating for his diminished fastball velocity. His 0.958 WHIP remains excellent, and his 8.2 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 are right on par with his numbers last season.

In the last 30 days, Dodgers’ starters have been dominant with a MLB best 2.51 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 4.5% walk rate. The starting rotation has also pitched the most innings in the NL during that span (161.2). That has helped the bullpen out, lessening the burden on the relief squad that was overextended in April.

The Rays are an interesting team, and one the Dodgers shouldn’t underestimate. Despite having payroll limitations ($60.6 million), they’ve stayed competitive in the AL East. That’s less than twice as much as Kershaw will make this season alone. The Rays sit in second place, 1 game back of the Yankees and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox despite having a payroll that’s a fraction of the two aforementioned juggernauts.

There’s a lot of new names on the roster plus a lot of new strategies employed including the utilization of an “opener” to start the game instead of a traditional starting pitcher.

Tampa Bay’s pitching has kept them in the mix, and opponents are hitting just .214 against them. They’ve allowed the fewest home runs in baseball (40). It’ll be interesting to see if they can silence the Dodgers’ bats, because as we all know they’re a dong machine with 76 homers on the year.

Whether you buy into the opener trend or not, there’s something to be said about the Rays’ innovative way of manipulating and using their roster. I mean, you have to stir the pot a bit when you have to work around such a scanty payroll and such an awful ballpark.

If you thought it was quiet in Cincinnati at Great American Ballpark last series, just wait until you see the “crowd” in Tampa Bay.

Hunter Wood will be the opening pitcher for the Rays. He’s a right-hander with just 48.2 major-league innings under his belt. He’s opened once this season for the Rays and made four conventional relief appearances. He hasn’t allowed a run in 7.1 innings of work and has struck out seven while walking only one batter so far.

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Julio Urias will be reinstated from seven-day administrative leave after being arrested in an alleged domestic violence incident at a Los Angeles area shopping mall. MLB’s investigation remains open.

Dustin wrote about Urias and the alleged domestic violence incident last week.

Urias responded to the media for the first time:

Andrew Friedman also made a statement:

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Another note to consider is that the Dodgers will have to play on artificial turf at Tropicana Field. Here’s to everyone leaving Tampa Bay with all their limbs intact.

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.