Angels @ Dodgers September 25, 2020: Final Series of the Season

There are now just three games left in the 2020 regular season. With a 40-17 record and +126 run differential, the Dodgers have been the best team in baseball. The only team that could conceivably reach 40 wins is the Tampa Bay Rays, but sitting at a run differential of +52, it’d be all but impossible for them to catch the Dodgers in that category.

Besides health and keeping guys in rhythm, the Dodgers don’t need wins, while the Angels need to sweep this series to have an outside shot at reaching the playoffs. The necessary outcomes for the Angels to make the postseason requires them to sweep this series, while the Houston Astros lose their last three games to the Texas Rangers. Now listen, I’m not saying the Dodgers should lose three games in a row, but if it meant the Astros missed the playoffs I’d be all in.

In a rather unimportant game for the Dodgers, they’ll send out Clayton Kershaw, while Andrew Heaney starts for the Angels in a must win game for them. Seems fair.

6:40 P.M. Los Angeles
SS Fletcher RF Betts
1B Walsh (L) SS Seager (L)
CF Trout 3B Turner
3B Rendon 1B Muncy (L)
DH Pujols DH Smith
LF Upton CF Bellinger (L)
C Stassi LF Pollock
RF Ward 2B Hernandez
2B Rengifo (S) C Barnes
P Heaney (L) P Kershaw (L)

The Dodgers lineup continues to be a tough matchup for any opposing team, with Corey Seager and Mookie Betts among the best players in baseball. To follow this up, the 2019 MVP Cody Bellinger has been among the hottest players in the last month, slashing .300/.403/.582 since August 19. That’s good for a 167 wRC+ over that stretch, very similar to his entire 2019 campaign, where he slashed .305/.406/.629 with a 162 wRC+. Additionally, even though he’s the designated hitter tonight, Will Smith has been the second best offensive catcher in baseball this season with a 153 wRC+, trailing only Salvador Perez (182).

The Angels are a very solid offensive team as whole, featuring the eighth highest wRC+ at 112, compared to the Dodgers at 121. An offense can only be so bad when it includes Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. In addition to those two, David Fletcher is a very solid leadoff hitter with a 124 wRC+, while first baseman Jared Walsh (.959 OPS) and catcher Max Stassi (.932 OPS) have been powering the Angels offense as of late.

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Kershaw has been really good this season, and especially as of late. His 2.15 ERA, 2.95 FIP and 0.75 WHIP are all his lowest since 2016. Sure, he’s had some luck with a career low .211 BABIP compared to his career average of .269, but he’s pitching better than we’ve seen in years. He’s coming off a seven inning start in Colorado where he allowed just one run and four hits while striking out six. He’ll look to end his season on a high note against this challenging Angels offense.

The left-handed Heaney is also having a career year, featuring a 4.02 ERA, 3.20 FIP, and 1.15 WHIP. He’s coming off a decent start against the Rangers, where he allowed three runs over six innings while striking out eight. He didn’t have his best stuff last time he faced the Dodgers this season, allowing four runs over 5.2 innings. He’ll look to continue his strong year tonight with the season on the line.

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In other news,

Justin Turner continues to be an incredibly good person and teammate on and off the field.

The Dodgers could matchup with any of these teams in the first round of the playoffs, and I think the only team they’d prefer not to see would be the Cincinnati Reds.

12-13 pitchers on the initial postseason roster is less than I would expect, but it could also depend on matchup. We’ll get more information in the coming days.

With Tony Gonsolin starting tomorrow and Dustin May on Sunday, the team is looking to get their rotation in line heading into the postseason.

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First pitch is at 6:40 PT on SNLA and MLB Network.

About Allan Yamashige

Allan Yamashige
Just a guy living in Thousand Oaks, CA who happens to love the Dodgers and statistics. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about adults doing baseball is alright.