It seems like an obvious statement, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have an opportunity to take a commanding lead in the World Series.
In both 2017 and 2018, the Dodgers trailed 2-1 after three games. They never held a two-game advantage and only once played in a series-clinching game, 2017’s unfortunate Game 7. The Dodgers also haven’t won consecutive World Series games since clinching the 1988 title in Game 5.
Given the recent success of Julio Urias, coupled with how fresh the Dodgers’ bullpen is coming off an off-day on Thursday and a total of 36 pitches needed by three pitchers on Friday, the team is in a good spot.
Meanwhile, the Rays used four relievers with two topping 25 pitches after Charlie Morton could only get through 4 1/3 IP in Game 3. A loss for Tampa leaves them facing potentially three elimination games, with Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler pitching in two of those.
|P||Urias (L)||P||Yarbrough (L)|
As expected with a left-handed starter, the Dodgers have Enrique Hernandez and AJ Pollock back in the lineup. There’s more on Hernandez below, but Pollock’s postseason line of .216/.256/.243/.500 includes just one extra-base hit, a double against the Brewers in the first game of the playoffs.
It also includes seven strikeouts to one walk across his 39 PAs. Ideally this will just look stupid later tonight when AJ comes up with a big hit,
but the argument could be made to throw either Edwin Rios in at DH or even send Austin Barnes back out to catch. I’m well aware Rios is only 2-for-14 himself in the post season, but his three walks and two homers seems a bit more enticing than what AJ has done so far. However, Rios only had 23 PAs against lefties in the majors before this postseason (though it has been with some success) and as Daniel mentioned on Twitter, Ryan Yarbrough‘s delivery seems like it should give lefties some trouble.
Well, I wrote all of that and then Pollock moved to center with Bellinger switching to DH for tonight after he slept wrong last night.
Now the above suggestion wouldn’t work and Pollock’s role is even more vital, though how he handles center tonight will be interesting…
As for what Hernandez has done in the playoffs, the Dodgers have given him four starts across 14 games, with him landing at second base in nearly every game. Slashing .227/.320/.500/.820 in those 25 PAs, unsurprisingly Hernandez has been better utilized against lefties (though the sample size is incredibly small).
Sitting at 3-for-9 with a walk and two homers off of lefties in the playoffs, including a single off of Yarbrough in Game 1, Hernandez is well ahead of his pace against righties (2-of-13 with a hit by pitch and walk while striking out seven times).
Seven of those nine appearances against lefties were versus either Fried or Blake Snell as they started games, with a homer and single coming off of a few relievers.
Now to take a closer look at Rays’ starter Yarbrough. The 28-year-old lefty has been in the majors with Tampa since 2018, landing with the franchise in January 2017 after he was included in the package from Seattle for Drew Smyly.
Starting 29 of his 77 games for the Rays over the past three seasons, Yarbrough reached 5 IP or more in seven of his 11 regular season appearances. Holding a 3.56 ERA and 3.80 FIP in 55 2/3 IP in 2020, Yarbrough held a K% of just 18.8%. That’s 64th out of 81 pitchers with at least 50 IP during this season while his line drive rate of 28.7% led all pitchers in the same qualifications.
With all of that said, Yarbrough’s exit velocity was among the league’s best as it sat at 82.6 mph. Similarly, Yarbrough’s Hard Hit % of 25.1% ranked near the top of the league alongside that of Max Fried, Kenta Maeda and Urias.
Against lefties, Yarbrough is primarily a sinker (54.5%) and curve (38.3%) pitcher while righties see cutters (47.7%) and changes (37.9). None of those pitches average over 90 mph, though Brooks Baseball classifies the sinker as a four-seamer.
Somewhat surprisingly, Yarbrough’s numbers are pretty similar to both sides of the plate. To lefties, it is a .223/.297/.381/.678 and to right-handers it is .247/.296/.400/.696. As for wOBA, it is .294 to .296 respectively.
Batters swing at 40.8% of Yarbrough’s pitches outside the strike zone and 52.0% of all pitches, tied for first (with Maeda) and 5th in the majors. That helped him miss bats at a pretty decent rate, sitting at 13.3% in swinging strike percentage. That sat at 17th this season, a few spots ahead of Kershaw.
As has already been mentioned during the playoffs, the Dodgers Swinging Strike % of 10.1 tied for the 4th-lowest in the majors and their O-Swing% of 25.5% was the lowest in the league. Add in their league-leading 42.0% Hard Hit % and exit velocity of 90 mph, and this should be an interesting matchup.
That’s likely more detail than anyone needs on Yarbrough, but he’s four days removed from throwing 19 pitches against the Dodgers across 2/3 IP in Game 1.
Though he hit 5 IP against the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALDS and against the Astros in Game 3 of the ALCS, how long the Rays let Yarbrough go tonight isn’t entirely clear. While it could sort of be considered a bullpen game, Yarbrough said Friday night he believed he could give the Rays 100 pitches and Kevin Cash said “we will look for a pretty heavy chunk of the game to go to him.”
Granted, that would be the best case scenario for Tampa, but Yarbrough threw 65 or more pitches in nine of his 11 regular season appearances as well as both playoff starts before the short outing against the Dodgers
As for the aforementioned Urias, who last pitched on Sunday when he notably closed out the Game 7 victory, he is sitting at a 0.56 ERA across 16 postseason innings and has earned the victory in all four appearances so far.
Much of that can be attributed to avoiding his 1st innings struggles from the regular season. While he’s started only one of his four postseason games thus far, and walked the first two batters of that game before working out of the inning, Urias has been in control from the start of the other appearances.
With only a single allowed to the Brewers across his first inning of work (the 5th), Urias sat down the first three Padres batters he faced across the 2nd and 3rd innings of Game 3 in the NLDS and naturally retired the side in order during the 7th inning of Game 7 in the NLCS.
In the 2nd to 8th inning during the regular season, accounting for 45 IP, Urias held a 2.00 ERA with 32 Ks and 13 BBs. In just 10 IP across the 1st inning of games, Urias matched that earned run total of 10, with 15 hits and 5 walks to 13 Ks.
Part of those first inning struggles, which included a slash line of .341/.400/.591/.991, could be influenced by a .414 BABIP in the inning versus his .154 as a whole for the season.
To wrap it up, here’s a look at where the pitching staff stands through the first three games of the series:
|Game 1, Oct. 20||Game 2, Oct. 21||Game 3, Oct. 23|
|Baez||1 IP, 11 pitches|
|Buehler||6 IP, 93 pitches|
|Floro||1/3 IP, 15 pitches||1 1/3 IP, 19 pitches|
|Gonsolin||1 1/3 IP, 29 pitches|
|Gonzalez||2/3 IP, 14 pitches||1 IP, 10 pitches|
|Graterol||1 IP, 7 pitches|
|Jansen||1 IP, 15 pitches|
|Kelly||1 IP, 10 pitches||1 IP, 16 pitches|
|Kershaw||6 IP, 78 pitches|
|May||1 1/3 IP, 25 pitches|
|McGee||1 IP, 16 pitches|
|Treinen||1 IP, 14 pitches|
|Wood||2 IP, 26 pitches|
With the day off following Game 2 and the limited work of the three guys last night, it seems like just about every pitcher is available out of the bullpen tonight.
First pitch is set for 5:08 p.m. on Fox.