Dodgers @ Cardinals September 9, 2021: Guaranteed to gain half a game with a win

The Giants finally can’t win today as they are off on Thursday before beginning a three-game series in Chicago against the 65-76 Cubs, who have actually won 8 of their past 10. That means the Dodgers can move back to 1.5 games out of first place in the NL West/having the best record in the league with a win this morning/afternoon/early morning if you are Chad.

It’ll be Julio Urias Tony Gonsolin and Jake Woodford on the mound, with the former looking to earn a series victory before Los Angeles returns home while the latter tries to keep St. Louis within reach of the Padres/Reds in the Wild Card race as the Cardinals host… Cincinnati for the weekend. Honestly it would be nice if the Cardinals just took the loss today, took care of business over the next three days and the Dodgers agreed to sweep San Diego but that’s just too logical for everyone.

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Woodford brings a 4.47 ERA/5.18 FIP/4.72 xFIP/4.50 SIERA across 44 1/3 innings this season. After opening the season in the majors, Woodford was sent back to Triple-A Memphis following the trade deadline and the Cardinals added Jon Lester and J.A. Happ.

Injuries returned him to the majors just a few days ago, with a 5 1/3-inning outing against the Brewers pushing Woodford into the rotation. Allowing just two hits and striking out five, it was one of his best performances this season.

The Dodgers actually saw Woodford back on June 2 in Los Angeles, when he entered the game in the 1st after Carlos Martinez allowed 10 runs in 2/3 of an inning (I’m sure everyone remembers that). Woodford immediately allowed a homer to Cody Bellinger, but retired seven of the next eight batters and only allowed a walk during the stretch.

However, that doesn’t really look like the profile of a pitcher capable of succeeding against a Dodgers’ lineup when it is on its game, but we all know how it has been lately and today’s lineup is … you will see below.

Woodford’s leaned heavily on his sinker this year, throwing it 34.2% of the time compared to the 7.2% when he debuted last season. Using the sinker 43.6% of the time to righties, Woodford has actually held them to a .193/.330/.301/.631 slash line.

It’s left-handed batters, who hit .345/.372/.607/.979 as he turns to his four-seamer 34.5% of the time, that do the damage.

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Gonsolin returns from the injured list to start this afternoon, shifting Urias back to Friday against San Diego followed by Walker Buehler and Max Scherzer. Again, this feels like a favor to the Cardinals who should just lose today to hold up their end of the deal. Clayton Kershaw is expected to rejoin the rotation soon after that, with Dave Roberts saying it will be Monday.

As for Gonsolin, it’ll be his first appearance since July 30 in what has been an injury-filled 2021 for the 27-year-old. With a walk rate at 16.5%, easily the highest of his professional career at any level, Gonsolin’s managed to be somewhat effective around that. Holding a 2.78 ERA across 35 2/3 innings, Gonsolin 26.6 K% is a slight increase over 2020.

There’s been a slight uptick in slider usage, with a dip in the splitter as a result, but it’s led to an improvement on the latter’s results (and it should be mentioned these are still all pretty small samples since Gonsolin’s at 122 1/3 career innings in the majors). He’s thrown more than 5 innings just twice this season, so we know where this game is likely heading once again. Especially if the struggles with walks continue.

Gonsolin’s return coincided with a few other moves on the pitching staff, including Andre Jackson‘s return as well. Mitch White goes back down and Neftali Feliz continues to become a perfect entry into a Let’s Remember Some Dodgers post eight years from now.

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Obviously you knew Will Smith wouldn’t be in the lineup today thanks to the start time, but the back half of the lineup sure is something. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise on a getaway day like this, but Corey Seager and Chris Taylor also getting rest leads to … well.

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10:15 AM St. Louis
2B Betts 2B Edman (S)
1B Muncy (L) 1B Goldschmidt
SS T. Turner LF O’Neill
3B J. Turner 3B Arenado
CF Bellinger (L) CF Carlson (S)
LF Souza Jr. RF Nootbaar (L)
RF McKinney (L) SS Dejong
C Barnes C Knizer
P Gonsolin (R) P Woodford (R)

It’ll be Betts’ fifth start at second base this season, somewhat of a necessity given the rest for the others today. He’s also in the leadoff spot with Trea Turner down to third. Seeing Bellinger and Billy McKinney down there together reminded me of Jon’s tweet from yesterday:

Call me pessimistic, but this lineup doesn’t feel like the one that’s going to snap the Dodgers out of this:

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There’s not a ton of other news to share thanks to the early start time, with first pitch at 10:15 a.m. PT.

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.