Mets @ Dodgers August 19, 2021: Knebel opens series after White saves bullpen

Dodger Stadium
Photo by: Cody Bashore

So the last time I wrote one of these about 10 days ago, I said

It appears it will take the Dodgers finishing with the best record in baseball to extend their run of eighth consecutive division titles. The Giants, 70-41 and three games up on the rest of the league, have 10 more games against the Padres, 10 against the Rockies and five with the Diamondbacks. Obviously there’s time to make up the difference, but falling behind two more games in the past 10 has made it a bit more of a challenge.

Well … shit.

The Giants (78-43) have won 9 of their past 11 while the Dodgers (75-46) have won 10 of their past 11. San Francisco is still three games up on the rest of the league, it’s just Los Angeles is now holding the second-best record with Tampa Bay leading the American League at 74-47.

That’s a 100-win pace for the Dodgers that might land them in the Wild Card. I took a look and you don’t have to go back far to find the most recent 100-win team to land as a Wild Card. The Yankees have already been through this in 2018 when they finished 100-62 and needed a 7-2 victory to beat the 97-65 A’s and advance to the AL Division Series.

Even then, the Yankees weren’t the second-best team in baseball as the Astros* finished at 103-59. A quick check showed there’s never been a 100-win Wild Card team in the National League, with 98 the current high by the Pirates back in 2015. The only other 100-win Wild Card team was the A’s back in 2001 when they finished 102-60 behind the Mariners 116-46, but of course they were placed right into the AL Division Series.

So once again, including tonight, there’s 41 games left in the season and the Dodgers are sitting 3 games back while currently tying a league best win streak of 6 games.

Image Image
7:10 PM Los Angeles
CF Nimmo (L) 2B T. Turner
2B McNeil (L) 1B Muncy (L)
1B Alonso 3B J. Turner
RF Conforto (L) SS Seager (L)
3B Davis C Smith
LF Smith (L) LF Pollock
SS Villar (S) RF Taylor
C Mazeika (L) CF Bellinger (L)
P Walker (P) P Knebel (R)

Now that I’ve got through all the whining about that, here’s a look at who is pitching tonight. It is the bullpen again for the 4th-ish straight day.

I say “ish” because Mitch White took it upon himself Wednesday night to offer up what would have been one of the stronger starts by a Dodger this season, relieving Justin Bruihl for 7 1/3 innings to shut out the Pirates on just two hits allowed and two walks. White’s 91-pitch appearance was the longest scoreless relief appearance by a Dodger since 1960 and it really can’t be understated how crucial that performance was as the Dodger begin their 4-game series with the Mets in LA.

Somewhat surprisingly, he hadn’t been option for an extra arm as of writing this. It would seem as though an appearance like that could/should land him in the rotation the next time around, which would be the opening of next week’s series in San Diego against the Padres.

White’s performance should give the Dodgers plenty of options tonight while Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer and Price start over the rest of the weekend. Buehler moving back a day ruined another wonderful Walker vs. Buehler as the Dodgers’ matchup with Taijuan Walker, who allowed just one run on two hits with 8 strikeouts back on Saturday, starts tonight.

The Dodgers managed just two walks through the opening 6 innings against Walker before Will Smith sent a slider 444 feet over the center-field wall. Walker generated 7 of his 14 Whiffs with his splitter on Saturday, mixing the pitch with his four-seam fastball to account for well over 60% of his pitches in the game.

It will be Corey Knebel for the Dodgers, though it will likely be a variety of guys on the mound tonight. For Knebel, he’s thrown 3 innings across 4 games since returning from the IL. He’s walked just 1 batter to his 4 strikeouts while also recording 5 groundballs.

Obviously there’s not a ton to go off here, and it’s hard to do much of a pitching breakdown when you have a reliever with 12 appearances this season and has only thrown 153 pitches.

Max Muncy, hitting .500/.643/2.000/2.643 in the past 4 games with 5 homers, 3 walks and a hit by pitch, continues to lead all NL position players in WAR (4.9) and wRC+ (163). AJ Pollock has 5 hits in his past 8 PAs with a walk after going 0-for-13 across a three-game stretch.

——

As I mentioned above, Victor Gonzalez is back as White is “optioned” to give the team an additional arm again tonight.

——

As for those still remaining on the IL, here’s a little news for both Mookie Betts and Tony Gonsolin.

——

Other than that, it’s a relatively regular game and the Giants are idle tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree. He now works for the university’s athletics department after spending seven years with the local newspaper.