Dodgers @ Pirates May 24, 2019: Buehler opens the series against an opener

The Dodgers had an off day after a train wreck of a game in Tampa Bay. We don’t need to talk about that here. The Dodgers are 32-18 and lead the NL West by six games, which is the biggest division lead in the National League and the third-biggest in baseball. They’re very good, despite a questionable-at-best bullpen (Dustin wrote about that at True Blue LA).

They wrap up this road trip with a three-game series in Pittsburgh. At 25-22, the Pirates are 3.5 games out of first place in the NL Central despite a -42 run differential, the third-worst in the NL. Pittsburgh is coming off a home series against the Rockies, where they dropped the first two before winning yesterday. The two teams met in Los Angeles at the end of April, and the Dodgers swept the Pirates while outscoring them 16 to 9 in the three-game set.

Dodgers
Pirates
4:05 p.m.
Pittsburgh
LF
Beaty
2B
Frazier
2B
Muncy
CF
Marte
3B
Turner
RF
Polanco
RF
Bellinger
1B
Bell
SS
Seager
LF
Reynolds
1B
Freese
3B
Moran
CF
Hernández C Diaz
C
Barnes
SS
Tucker
P
Buehler (R)
P
Feliz (R)

Walker Buehler is coming off a frustrating outing in Cincinnati. His ERA dropped to 3.83 as he was charged with one earned run, but the Reds scored four times off him thanks to a Corey Seager throwing error that extended the third inning and led to three runs. After some uneven strikeout numbers earlier in the season, Buehler has struck out seven batters in each of his last two starts and eight batters in his first start of May. He’s struck out 22 in May with only one walk which is a much better ratio than April, when Buehler issued nine walks and struck out 24 in six starts. This will be Buehler’s first career start against the Pirates, as he missed them in 2017 and 2018 and didn’t start against them in late April.

The Pirates have adopted the opener strategy, with Michael Feliz starting. This will be Feliz’s first career start after 156 career relief appearances over the last five seasons. Feliz last pitched May 22nd against the Rockies and got the final three outs in a 9-3 loss. He hasn’t pitched more than 1 2/3 innings or thrown more than 39 pitches in a game this season.

That’s not the worst ratio I’ve ever seen, but Pirate fans don’t seem thrilled. Steven Brault figures to be the first arm out of the bullpen today. He’s started twice this season, but six of his seven outings in 2019 have been for two or more innings. In 19 2/3 innings, Brault has allowed 18 runs and 25 hits. He’s also struck out 20 batters while walking 13. He’s thrown as many as 96 pitches in a game this season, but has struggled with efficiency. He’s only completed four innings in a game once.

Brault hasn’t been great facing hitters on either side of the plate so far this season. He’s a lefty, and righties have a .345/.457/.621 triple slash line in 71 plate appearances against him. He’s faced lefties only 24 times and has fared a bit better, but is still allowing a .250/.348/.450 line against them. A .372 BABIP seems like an outlier, but Baseball Savant has Brault in the bottom seven percentile of the league in Expected Batting Average, Expected Slugging Percentage and Expected Weighted On Base Average.

Blue is bad, folks.

Despite a righty starting the game, the Dodgers are starting Matt Beaty in left over Joc Pederson.

David Freese gets the start at first with Max Muncy starting at second and Enrique Hernandez getting a rare start in center. The opener strategy clearly has Dave Roberts shook, as they changed the lineup like three times before the game. I think I have the most updated one.

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The Dodgers bullpen is shorthanded today.

The Dodgers will be without Joe Kelly for between three and seven days as he’s been placed on the bereavement list. Kyle Garlick is back up after a little more seasoning in the minors. Kelly is expected to rejoin the team when they return home Monday.

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Pedro Baez also might not be available today.

This leaves the Dodgers short a pair of right-handed relievers. They have some potential length in the bullpen with Ross Stripling, but he hasn’t been used for more than an inning since his move to the bullpen.

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In half-Dodger related news:

Old friend Matt Kemp found a minor-league home. I don’t think there’s a worse outcome for 2010 Alex than Kemp and Tim Tebow playing in the same outfield. He likely won’t be up for the series, but the Mets travel to LA for a three-game series starting Monday.

About Alex Campos

Alex Campos
I've been writing about the Dodgers since I graduated from Long Beach State, where I covered the Dirtbags in my senior year. I'm either very good or very bad at puns.