Dodgers @ Cardinals September 6, 2021: Laboring offense tries to show up on Labor Day

Well, the Dodgers (86-51) lost two out of three to the Giants (87-50) this weekend. Not ideal, but on the bright side, they didn’t get swept. They’re back to a one game deficit in the NL West, and with no more remaining games against San Francisco, they can only control their own games from here on out. While the Dodgers are trying to win their division, the Cardinals (69-66) are desperately trying to get into the second Wild Card position. They currently trail the San Diego Padres (73-64) by three games, and also have the Cincinnati Reds (73-65) and Philadelphia Phillies (70-66) between them. It’s September, so this is a big series for both teams. The Dodgers won two of three games back in the very beginning of June, outscoring the Cardinals 25-10. Today features Max Scherzer looking for his fifth win as a Dodger up against the right-handed Miles Mikolas, making his fourth start after returning from the Injured List.

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1:15 PM St. Louis
2B T. Turner 2B Edman (S)
1B Muncy (L) 1B Goldschmidt
RF Betts RF Carlson (S)
3B J. Turner LF O’Neill
SS Seager (L) 3B Carpenter (L)
LF Taylor SS Sosa
CF Bellinger (L) CF Bader
C Barnes C Knizner
P Scherzer (R) P Mikolas (R)

It’s the same as usual with the offense. On paper, they’re one of the most talented if not the most talented offense in the league. A legitimate issue is that the team just lost AJ Pollock (.861 OPS, 132 wRC+), and is essentially replacing him with Cody Bellinger (.550 OPS, 52 wRC+). That’s going from one of the top 30 hitters in baseball, to the third worst hitter in baseball by someone with at least 300 plate appearances. To his credit, he’s been injured and is a former MVP and two time All-Star. That doesn’t change that he’s been very bad and that there are just 25 games left. Outside of Bellinger, Austin Barnes, and the pitchers spot, the remaining six position players in the lineup are all inside the top 30 in wRC+ in the National League. That’s without Will Smith and obviously Pollock. There isn’t much else to say about the offense, they’re incredibly talented, should be able to score more frequently and more consistently and they just haven’t been able to do so.

St. Louis is 17th in wRC+ at 100, and 16th in OPS at .733. Offensively, they’ve been carried by Tyler O’Neill (.861 OPS, 132 wRC+), Paul Goldschmidt (.835 OPS, 127 wRC+), and Nolan Arenado (.812 OPS, 115 wRC+). Outside of that, their offense stagnates a little bit, but still features above average regulars in Tommy Edman, Dylan Carlson, and Harrison Bader. If I missed anyone, it’s because I don’t pay attention to what goes on in the NL Central, ever.

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Here’s how Scherzer and Mikolas matchup.

Scherzer was removed early in his last start with hamstring tightness that both him and Dave Roberts treated as if it were very minor. He was dominant as usual through six innings, striking out nine while allowing no runs on three hits and no walks. He’s now made six starts with the Dodgers, going 4-0 and with the team 6-0 in his starts. With the Dodgers, he has a 1.29 ERA, 1.65 FIP, and a 0.77 WHIP, with a 36.8% strikeout rate and just a 3.7% walk rate. That’s 50 strikeouts and five walks in 35 innings. He’s currently sitting at a career best 2.40 ERA, a career best 0.86 WHIP, and his .179 batting average allowed is his second lowest only behind his .176 allowed in 2017, when he won his third career Cy Young. If he were to continue this pace, he might find his way into his fourth career Cy Young, which would join Greg Maddux as one of only four players to win four or more times (Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens). Cy Young would’ve probably won some, but obviously he could not.

After Buehler’s six run implosion yesterday, Max Scherzer (and others) have a real shot at getting the NL Cy Young with a handful of remaining starts. Within the National League, Scherzer is currently fourth in ERA at 2.40, first in WHIP (0.86) by a huge margin, with Brandon Woodruff and Buehler both at 0.94. He’s first in batting average allowed by a pretty significant gap, .179 vs. .189 for Woodruff, and his 34.9% strikeout rate is also first. At 144 innings pitched, he is behind a few of other starters, but at this rate he’s going to put himself at a great position to be in that conversation.

For Mikolas, the first thing to note here is that he has just 16.1 innings pitched this season. He missed the start of the season with a shoulder injury and returned to make just a single start in late May before being shut down with a forearm tightness. Last time out against the Reds, he gave up four runs on five hits and a walk over three innings with three strikeouts. He threw 55 pitches last time out, although that was more likely due to giving up four runs in three innings. He threw 84 pitches in his first start back from the IL, so he’s likely not on some sort of pitch count. He’s now given up seven runs in 12.1 innings since returning from the IL.

After him, the Cardinals bullpen is 18th in ERA at 4.24, 13th in FIP at 4.12, 20th in WHIP at 1.37, and leads baseball in walk rate at 12.1%. Giovanny Gallegos is easily their best reliever, and would be a top tier reliever on a lot of other teams. He has a 3.46 ERA, 2.83 FIP, and a 0.90 WHIP, with 77 strikeouts to just 16 walks in 67.2 innings. Alex Reyes was an All-Star thanks to a very interesting first half. He had just a 1.52 ERA going into the All-Star break, but it was miraculous, considering his 18.2% walk rate, with 32 walks in 41.1 first half innings. He’s lowered the walk rate a bit in his second half, down to 13.5%, but his ERA has inflated to 6.27 in that stretch, including five blown saves and at least two walk off home runs allowed, the most recent coming 24 hours ago.

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Steven Souza Jr. has a .894 OPS in 46 games in Triple-A this season, so it makes sense to at least consider him against the upcoming left-handed pitching.

Relief arms being optioned and recalled consistently continues.

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This would theoretically put him on track to start as early as Sunday against San Diego or early next week against Arizona.

Tony Gonsolin returning would be great as well. The offense can only score three runs per game apparently, so the team needs as many pitchers as possible.

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First pitch is at 1:15 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!