Padres @ Dodgers September 28, 2021: Two struggling aces meet in penultimate series

The Dodgers (100-56) are in unprecedented territory as they make a final push for a ninth consecutive National League West title, currently still trailing the San Francisco Giants (102-54) by two games. They open this final homestead against the third place San Diego Padres (78-78) who still have three more games left against the Giants after this three-game series against the Dodgers. Their only role left is as a potential spoiler for either the Dodgers or the Giants. The team has a very slim chance of catching San Francisco, and they’ll most definitely need to go 6-0 to have a chance. Excluding last year’s shortened season, San Diego will be looking to finish above .500 for the first time since 2010. After a stretch of losing seven of eight to San Diego, the Dodgers have won six in a row and now lead the season series 9-7, and are 4-3 against them at home. Tonight features Walker Buehler on the mound, looking to improve upon his sluggish September, up against Yu Darvish.

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7:10 PM Los Angeles
LF Frazier (L) RF Betts
SS Tatis Jr. SS Seager (L)
2B Cronenworth (L) 2B T. Turner
3B Machado 1B Muncy (L)
1B Hosmer (L) C Smith
RF Myers 3B J. Turner
CF Grisham (L) LF Pollock
C Caratini (S) CF Lux (L)
P Darvish (R) P Buehler (R)

Albert Pujols was placed on the Injured List due to side effects from his second Covid-19 vaccine. There is no minimum duration required, so he can be back as early as tomorrow. Cody Bellinger was activated but will not be in the starting lineup. Both Mookie Betts and Max Muncy have been slumping a little bit this month, with Betts owning a .688 OPS and 94 wRC+, while Muncy is at a .740 OPS and 95 wRC+. Justin Turner will bat sixth for just the third time this season, as he’s hitting .241 with a .695 OPS and 87 wRC+ in September.

Luckily they have been provided offense by a handful of others, one of which is Gavin Lux, hitting .405 with a 1.061 OPS and 187 wRC+ over his last 13 games. Tonight he’ll be making his 15th start in the outfield this season and fifth in center field. Currently sitting at .299, AJ Pollock is looking to hit .300 for the first time since his stellar 2015 season, and would be one of just 17 players with at least 400 plate appearances batting .300 or above. Among those is Trea Turner who is currently leading baseball in batting average at .322 with six games to go, looking for his first career batting title. After slashing .322/.369/.521 with a 136 wRC+ with the Nationals, Turner has almost identically replicated his production there, slashing .322/.373/.519, with a 140 wRC+ as a Dodger. Three of his last four hits are home runs, and all four are extra base hits, including a 426 foot double. He now owns a 13 game hitting streak, during which he is slashing .377/.450/.660 with four homers, eleven runs and five stolen bases. In Sunday’s win against Arizona, Corey Seager continued his red-hot September, with two solo home runs, including his 100th of his career. In September, Seager is slashing .364/.457/.610, good for a 186 wRC+, with 14 walks to seven strikeouts in his last 22 games. All in all, he’s hitting .313 with a .927 OPS and 150 wRC+ in 52 games since returning from the Injured List at the end of July.

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Here’s how Buehler and Darvish matchup.

In his last time out, Buehler allowed five earned runs on seven hits and no walks while striking out two over 3.2 innings against the Rockies. He was pitching fine until he allowed five consecutive hits in the fourth inning, allowing all five runs in that inning. Through four starts and 19.2 innings in September, he has a 7.32 ERA, 4.59 FIP, and a 1.58 WHIP, with only 13 strikeouts and five walks. His best start in September actually came against the Padres, going seven innings allowing two runs on six hits and two walks. He’s now made four starts against San Diego this season, totaling 26.2 innings pitched, with a 2.03 ERA, 3.13 FIP, and a 0.90 WHIP.

Despite his issues as of late, it’s possible he gets one more start after this one if the division is still tight come game 162. Full rest would be pitching on 10/3, the final game of the regular season. Either way, he will end the season leading all of baseball in quality starts, with at least 26. Robbie Ray and Sandy Alcantara both have 23. Prior to his start today, he’s fourth in innings pitched, and one of only four pitchers that’ll reach 200 innings pitched. He has the fourth lowest ERA in baseball at 2.58, his 3.25 FIP is seventh in the NL, his 0.98 WHIP is fourth, as is his .199 batting average allowed. Sure, three of his last four starts have been bad and while September is a bad time to have those starts, his 27 other starts prior to September got the team through Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin both dealing with injuries, and the complete loss of Dustin May to Tommy John surgery. Him and Julio Urias held the rotation together until the Max Scherzer trade. That can’t be discounted. He’ll look to get back on track against a struggling but still dangerous San Diego offense.

Darvish has had a very up and down year, and like Buehler, has also had an interesting September, with a 6.48 ERA over 25 innings and five starts. He started September allowing five earned runs in 2.2 innings against Arizona, continuing a terrible second half. He followed that up with a great outing against the Angels allowing just one earned run over six innings. It seemed like things might be getting better until he allowed eight earned runs in four innings against the Giants. He followed that up with his best start since the middle of May, going seven scoreless against the Cardinals. He’d looked better once again. and then proceeded to allow four earned runs to the Giants in 5.1 innings his last time out. A real rollercoaster.

After a stellar first ten starts, Darvish was looking like a real Cy Young contender, with a 1.75 ERA, 2.69 FIP, and 0.89 WHIP with 74 strikeouts in 61.2 innings. Overall, his next nineteen starts prior to tonight has featured a 5.72 ERA, and a 4.66 FIP. In four starts against the Dodgers this season, Darvish is 2-2 with a 2.42 ERA over 26 innings, with a 2.63 FIP, and a 0.73 WHIP, holding the Dodgers to a .136 batting average with 35 strikeouts. However, of those starts, his most recent was by far his worst, allowing four runs on five hits over six innings. That one was particularly bad because he allowed a two run homer to Austin Barnes, which really means you’re having a tough time.

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Like I mentioned earlier.

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Based on how Darvish has been performing, I can’t say if this is a good or bad thing.

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Jaime Jarrín will be retiring after the 2022 season, and will only be calling home games in his final year. Fabian Ardaya wrote a great piece talking further about Jarrín.

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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!