Rockies @ Dodgers August 27, 2021: Dodgers look to stay hot behind Andre Jackson and bullpen

After a series sweep against the San Diego Padres (68-61), the Dodgers (81-47) have now won 15 of their last 17 games, including six series wins in a row. They still trail the San Francisco Giants (83-44) by 2.5 games in the NL West. If they want to catch the Giants, the Dodgers will need to try and sweep teams that they’re significantly better than, such as this Rockies team on the road. I specify on the road, because the Rockies are 15-47 (.242) on the road, a 39 win pace over the course of 162 games. That’s the worst in baseball. However, they’re 43-22 (.662) at home, the third best home record in baseball, trailing just the Dodgers (42-21) and Giants (42-19). The Dodgers are 10-3 against the Rockies this season, most recently taking two out of three back in late July.

The team will implement a bullpen game tonight, with Brusdar Graterol starting on the mound. Andre Jackson will make his second career appearance in the Majors, pitching the bulk of innings after Graterol is removed. Opposing them will be the talented left-hander, Kyle Freeland for the Rockies.

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7:10 P.M. Los Angeles
LF Joe 2B Turner
SS Rodgers 3B Turner
RF Blackmon (L) RF Betts
1B Cron 1B Pujols
3B McMahon (L) SS Seager (L)
C Díaz LF Pollock
2B Hampson CF Taylor
CF Hilliard (L) C Smith
P Freeland (L) P Graterol (R)

The Rockies feature the second worst wRC+ in baseball at 88, yet feature the ninth highest OPS at .751. That’s mainly due to their home park of Coors Field being so beneficial to offensive production, as at home they own a very impressive .840 OPS. As impressive as that is, that’s still a below average 95 wRC+ at home. wRC+ doesn’t evaluate park factors perfectly, but it’s easy to look at the lineup and agree that this isn’t an offensive powerhouse.

I say it every time, but overall the Dodgers still feature one of the top offenses in baseball, ranking fifth in OPS at .780, and second in wRC+ at 114. They do have their struggles against left-handed pitching, with the sixteenth ranked wRC+ at 98, and the 18th ranked .726 OPS. Skewing those stats against LHP slightly, is the fact that the team didn’t have Trea Turner or Albert Pujols for large chunks of the season, two of the best hitters against left-handed pitching this season. Pujols has a .954 OPS against LHP, good for a 153 wRC+, while Turner is slashing .400/.443/.667, an 1.110 OPS and a 192 wRC+. Overall, the left-handed Freeland still matches up well against the Dodgers.

After sitting out yesterday’s game with back tightness, Max Muncy will be out of the lineup once again, as will Cody Bellinger against the left-handed Freeland. Will Smith is batting eighth for some reason. I don’t quite get that one, as he’s been one of the best hitters in baseball since the All-Star Break. He has the eighth highest OPS since the ASB over his last thirty games, featuring a 1.013 OPS and 167 wRC+. That’s the eighth highest OPS since the break, sandwiched in between Colorado’s CJ Cron (1.042), and old friend Connor Joe (1.011), who was in the Dodgers’ system for two years between 2018-19.

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Here’s how Freeland compares to the Dodger Bullpen over their recent 15-2 run.

Graterol appearances do stress me out from time to time, however he has admittedly been very successful as of late. He’s allowed just one legitimate walk over his last 14 appearances and 15.2 innings pitched. (He’s also hit batters in three of his last four outings which doesn’t help, but). Six of his seven walks over those last 15.2 innings pitched were intentional, which factor into WHIP and walk rate. He has a 1.72 ERA over that stretch, as well as a 3.30 FIP and 1.28 WHIP, once again impacted by six intentional walks. I have a friend entirely convinced that Graterol is still destined to be a starter, with 41 of his first 44 minor league appearances through 2019, coming as a starting pitcher. He didn’t prominently pitch in relief until he was traded to the Dodgers in the 2019 Mookie Betts deal.

Obviously, the bullpen has been incredible over the last few weeks. Their collective 1.90 ERA over the last 17 games is the lowest in baseball, and they’ve thrown a total of 85.1 innings, the most of any team other than the Padres, who are also dealing with injuries to the starting rotation. They’ve struck out 97 batters over those 85.1 innings, while walking 39 over these last 17 games. Does an 11.4% walk rate sound bad? It should because yes, it is bad. However, of those 39 walks, exactly one third of them have been intentional walks, including eight the other night in that awful sixteen inning game against the Padres. If you remove those intentional walks, that results in a 7.9% walk rate, the sixth lowest over that stretch which would obviously impact stats like FIP and WHIP as well.

Andre Jackson looked solid in his first outing, allowing just two hits over four innings, although he did struggle a bit with command, walking four in those four innings. Still, he managed five strikeouts, but he’ll likely need to have better command against the Rockies tonight, although it is nice that he gets to face two poor offenses to start his career.

Freeland has made only 16 starts this season, as he didn’t make his first start until the end of May. He struggled over his first five starts, allowing 22 earned runs over his first 20.2 innings. That’s a 9.58 ERA, 9.56 FIP, and a 2.27 WHIP. Not the way you want to start your season. However, since then he’s allowed just 18 runs over his next eleven starts, pitching incredibly well, to the tune of a 2.53 ERA, 2.69 FIP, and a 1.09 WHIP, while making six of those starts at home. Freeland has shown glimpses of his 2018 self, where he went 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA, coming fourth in Cy Young voting.

Last time out, he allowed two runs on six hits over six innings against the Diamondbacks, while striking out ten. He’s made two starts against the Dodgers this season, both coming amongst those last eleven starts. Back in July, he made two starts against the team over the course of a week, once allowing three runs on six hits over six innings, and most recently allowing just one run over seven innings. Yes, if you look at Freeland’s 16 starts, you’ll see what looks like an average starting pitcher, but he’s been elite for nearly 70% of his season. The bats will need to show up to grab a win tonight.

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As I mentioned earlier about Muncy.

Still progressing well. They’ll also need Clayton Kershaw in the postseason, and as they’re all but guaranteed to at least make the Wild Card game, there’s no reason to rush him back. In a one game playoff, the team has Max Scherzer or Walker Buehler as options to start that game which works….very well.

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

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!