Dodgers @ Padres August 24, 2021: Urías returns as the Dodgers try to improve against the Padres

Even after the Dodgers (78-47) nine game winning streak was snapped, they’ve still gained 2.5 games on the San Francisco Giants over the last two weeks, and trail now by just 2.5 games. The team now has 37 games left, nine of which are against the Padres. That’s a lot. Frankly, they’ll need to beat the Padres in order to have a real shot at winning the division. Meanwhile for the Padres, amidst injuries and inconsistent play, they’re currently sitting outside of the second Wild Card spot, trailing the Cincinnati Reds (69-57) by one game. If they want to make the playoffs, they’ll have to beat the Dodgers. In different capacities, for both of these teams the final nine games against each other are integral to their postseason hopes. The Dodgers want to avoid a play-in game and would much prefer to catch the Giants, while the Padres want to make it into that play-in game and avoid missing the playoffs entirely. The Padres have had the advantage over the Dodgers thus far, as the Dodgers are just 3-7 against them this season, most recently being swept in San Diego towards the end of June.

Image
7:10 PM San Diego
2B Turner LF Pham
1B Muncy (L) CF Tatis Jr.
3B Turner 3B Machado
C Smith SS Cronenworth (L)
SS Seager (L) C Nola
RF Taylor 1B Hosmer (L)
LF Pollock RF Myers
CF Bellinger (L) 2B Kim
P Urías (L) P Johnson (R)

Overall, these are two of the best offensive teams in baseball when healthy. The Dodgers are second in wRC+ at 115, trailing just the Houston Astros (119), while the Padres are eighth at 107. The Dodgers .785 OPS is third in baseball, compared to the ninth ranked OPS at .759 for San Diego. Against left-handed pitching, the Padres are 15th in wRC+ at 104, and 16th in OPS at .749. The Dodgers also have similar struggles against left-handed pitching, but against right-handed pitching, they’re among the best in baseball. Against RHP, the team is tied for first with the Houston Astros in wRC+ at 120, and is second in OPS at .799. The Padres will face right-handed starting pitching in their next two games, while the Dodgers will face Blake Snell tomorrow, and possibly Yu Darvish on Thursday.

These two teams also include three of the top position players in the National League this season, in Fernando Tatis Jr., Max Muncy, and Trea Turner. Despite missing 31 games so far this season, Fernando Tatis Jr. leads the National League in fWAR at 4.9, just ahead of both Max Muncy and Trea Turner, at 4.8. More or less, his play has been so good in his limited time that this is his award to win or lose, but if he misses any more time with injury, or slows down significantly down the stretch, someone else will be winning NL MVP.

The Padres lead the league in stolen bases with 96, and if you’ve watched any of these first ten games between these two teams, that would make sense. They have 23 stolen bases in those ten games against the Dodgers. If the team wants to catch the Giants, they’ll need to up their level of play with the postseason approaching, and it starts with a strong opponent in the Padres. They’ll need to be better at holding baserunners and limiting steals, and they’ll need to clean up the defense. This is a big series for the Dodgers not only in terms of the tight division race, but it’s also a bit of a litmus test as to the readiness of this current team for the postseason.

——

Here’s how Urías and Johnson matchup.

After missing one start with a calf contusion, Urías is returning, hopefully ready to continue his strong season. In his last outing against the Mets, he went five innings allowing no runs on two hits with five strikeouts. He’s faced the Padres once this season, where he had his worst outing of the entire year, allowing six runs on six hits over four innings. Four of those runs came before he was able to get a single out. He’s making his 25th start of the season, easily blowing past his previous high in starts (15) and innings pitched (77.0), both coming in 2016.

He’s also having a season that might garner him some Cy Young votes depending on how he performs over his last six or seven starts. Among National League pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched, Urías is 13th in ERA at 3.29, eighth in FIP at 3.37, 11th in WHIP at 1.07, and has the third lowest walk-rate at 5.3%. He’s also 13-3, trailing just Kyle Hendricks (14) in wins. Not that wins are the most indicative stat, but in terms of getting Cy Young votes, they matter. He’ll likely be nowhere near the top five, but he can settle in anywhere after that.

For Johnson, in his four years in the Majors, this is his first career start. Pretty cool for him. He’s made 48 appearances this season, logging 43.1 innings pitched, with 60 strikeouts and 21 walks. His season high in pitches is thirty, which he’s reached twice, and has thrown at least 19 pitches in each of his last four outings. Normally that isn’t super relevant, but he’s a tough reliever, and with an injured Padres’ starting pitching rotation, getting to their bullpen quick and often during this series will be big for the Dodgers.

Johnson sits in the mid 90’s with his sinker he throws roughly 30% of the time, but his main weapon and go-to pitch is his mid 80’s curveball that he throws nearly 70% of the time. It’s a dangerous pitch, extremely effective, and generates a ton of whiffs, a huge reason why he strikes out 34.5% of the batters he faces. 51 of his 60 strikeouts have come on that curveball, and he’ll also throw it in any count. That’s part of the reason he walks 12.1% of the batters he faces, which is never a good thing for a reliever, in the 14th percentile amongst all pitchers.

He’s good. He gets strikeouts which limits the damage done against him if he does put runners on base. He also doesn’t give up a ton of hard contact, which has given him just a 2.49 ERA. In 13.2 innings pitched since the All-Star Break, he has allowed just one earned run, for a 0.66 ERA, a 2.51 FIP, and a 0.88 WHIP, with 20 strikeouts to six walks. With a decently well rested bullpen, it’s tough to say who’ll be up after Johnson, but for the Padres it will definitely be all hands on deck at this point in the season.

——

This is great news. It doesn’t mean that he’s ahead of schedule in terms of returning to the rotation, it just means that things are progressing well.

Mookie Betts returning to the lineup would make this offense even more dangerous, and if he’s feeling well his defense and baserunning is also obviously a game changer.

——

This makes sense. Neftali Feliz becomes one of eight pitchers to make just a single appearance for the Dodgers this season.

——

First pitch is at 7:10 PM PDT on SNLA and ESPN.

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!