Dodgers @ Cubs May 4, 2021: Doubleheader Game 1 – Kershaw vs. Hendricks

Photo: Sarah Wexler

The first game of the series last night between the Dodgers (17-12) and the Cubs (12-16) was rained out as expected, resulting in a doubleheader today. The first game features Clayton Kershaw vs. Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs, and Trevor Bauer vs. Keegan Thompson later today. The Dodgers are coming off a much needed win on Sunday, exploding for sixteen runs on eighteen hits. They’ve been bad undoubtedly, but hopefully that showing and the extra day of rest can get them back on track. The team hasn’t won consecutive games since April 17 in San Diego, so they’ll go out in this first game looking for their first winning streak in two weeks.

11:20 AM Chicago
RF Betts C Contreras
SS Seager (L) RF Bryant
3B Turner 1B Rizzo (L)
1B Muncy (L) SS Báez
CF Taylor LF Duffy
LF Pollock 3B Bote
2B Lux (L) CF Marisnick
C Barnes 2B Vargas (S)
P Kershaw (L) P Hendricks (R)

The Cubs’ offense has been very bad and then very good this year, with not much in between. Over their first twelve games it looked atrocious, slashing just .163/.254/.307, for a .561 OPS and a 58 wRC+, by far the worst in the league. They were 5-7 through those first twelve games. Since then however, they’ve posted the best offense in the league at .264/.351/.469, an .820 OPS and a 123 wRC+, both easily best in the league. They’re still just 7-9 since then however, and they’re dead last in the NL Central at 12-16.

The lineup today is the best the Dodgers can currently field, with Cody Bellinger out and Austin Barnes catching. The team now features only the fourth best offense this season with a 111 wRC+. They exploded for sixteen runs against the Brewers on Sunday, the kind of day a struggling offense needed. They’ve been very bad recently. They’ll be looking to take advantage of a struggling starter in Hendricks and put that huge slump behind them. AJ Pollock was slashing .247/.293/.364 with a .656 OPS and an 82 wRC+ prior to Sunday, where he proceeded to go 3 for 6, featuring two home runs and a double. He’s now slashing .265/.307/.458, a .765 OPS and a 109 wRC+. Over his last nine games and 35 plate appearances, he’s up to a .333/.371/.727 line, a 1.099 OPS and 191 wRC+.

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Here’s how Kershaw and Hendricks matchup:

Hendricks has been very bad this year. He’s walking more batters than he ever has, and as a pitcher that has always survived on soft contact and command, that’s problematic. Out of 131 starting pitchers with at least twenty innings pitched, Hendricks’ 7.54 ERA is the fifth highest, while his 8.32 FIP is the highest mark in baseball. He’s coming off his worst start of the season, allowing seven runs on eleven hits, featuring three home runs over just 3.2 innings to the Cincinnati Reds. He now has a 35.7% fly-ball to home run rate compared to his career rate of 11.8%, so it’s likely he won’t continue giving up home runs at a ridiculous rate. He was also one of the better pitchers in the league last year, coming in ninth in the NL Cy Young voting with a 2.88 ERA, 3.55 FIP, and a 1.00 WHIP. He’ll figure it out and I like watching him pitch so hopefully he doesn’t continue being the worst pitcher in the game. However, he can be the worst pitcher in the game today and I wouldn’t mind.

Kershaw is coming off a great start against the Reds, providing seven runs of shutout baseball, allowing just four hits while striking out eight. He got the team a win when they couldn’t find one. Excluding his first start of the year in Colorado, he now has a 1.09 ERA, 2.41 FIP, and a 0.73 WHIP in his previous five starts. Over that stretch he’s thrown 33 innings, struck out 37 and walked four, a 30.3% strikeout rate and a 3.3% walk rate. He’s now gone seven innings in half of his starts, including both of his last two outings, and I’m sure he’d like to get through the entire seven inning game today. Although it wouldn’t be a full nine inning complete game, if he managed it, it would be his first since July of 2017 and the 26th of his career.

We’re now looking at the following rotation for the series:

Tuesday (Game 1): Kershaw vs. Hendricks

Tuesday (Game 2): Bauer vs. Thompson

Wednesday: Walker Buehler vs. Adbert Alzolay

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Keibert Ruiz is up for the time being, although it’s not guaranteed he grabs any playing time currently, it’s nice to have him around as an option.

The team will have an extra player available in the second game, and as I’m sure that’ll be announced prior to game time, I’ll update that in the next thread.

Additionally, the way the schedule was shaping up and the shuffling of the rotation for Bauer to start today instead of Wednesday seemed as if they were planning to have him start on three days rest on Saturday vs. the Angels.

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First pitch is at 11:20 AM PST on SNLA. The second game will begin at 4:40 PM.

About Allan Yamashige

Just a guy living in Southern California, having a good time writing about baseball. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about it rules. Thanks for reading!