Well everyone, the final game of the 2021 regular season has finally arrived, and the entire division is on the line. The Dodgers (105-56) will need to win this game and the San Francisco Giants (106-55) will also need to lose for a game 163 that would be played tomorrow in San Francisco to decide the NL West. It’s been a race for the ages. The team has now won seven consecutive series and are 17-3 in that stretch. They trail only the Cardinals over that stretch, who are 19-3 thanks to a 17 game winning streak.
Unfortunately, as has been the case the entire second half, they’ve picked up just 1.5 games on the Giants during that stretch, who still managed to go 16-5. The team is an MLB best 40-11 (.784) since 8/7, and have picked up just three games in that span as the Giants went 37-14 (.725), the two best records in baseball. Both teams will finish with more than 105 wins. Pretty insane. Today features Walker Buehler up against the Brewers (95-66) and their bullpen, opening with Brett Anderson. Pretty favorable matchup there.
|12:10 PM||Los Angeles|
|1B||Tellez (L)||2B||T. Turner|
|CF||Bradley Jr. (L)||CF||Taylor|
|P||Anderson (L)||P||Buehler (R)|
For the Brewers, obviously they want to win games and perform well heading into the postseason, but this isn’t an incredibly daunting lineup. Unless the Seattle Mariners (90-71) manage to make the postseason, the Brewers feature the weakest offense amongst all playoff teams this season. They’re 19th in wRC+ at 97, and 17th in OPS at .736. That being said, Buehler still needs to put a strong performance together with the season potentially on the line. This is probably the best lineup the Dodgers can put out, assuming Chris Taylor is healthy. The lowest wRC+ amongst the starters today for the Dodgers is 112 in Taylor, while the second lowest is Justin Turner at 128. The Brewers have just two above that mark of 112 in Willy Adames at 119, and Luis Urias at 115.
He won’t get the MVP recognition he deserves, but Trea Turner now leads FanGraphs in WAR at 6.7, the highest among all position players in baseball. Baseball Reference has him at 6.2, which would be fifth in the NL. He’s slashing an absurd .338/.386/.554 with the Dodgers, good for a 151 wRC+ and .940 OPS. Stellar numbers for a middle infielder and the most dominant baserunner in the sport. He’s third in baseball in stolen bases with 32, but would easily have more if he didn’t have the star studded lineup behind him. Unless something drastically changes, he’ll finish the season leading the NL in stolen bases, and leading all of baseball in batting average and hits. He’d be the first Dodger to win a batting title since Tommy Davis in 1963.
Corey Seager has been on a mission after returning from injury on 7/30, with a .325/.409/.586 slash and 165 wRC+ since his return. That’s fueled by a 1.222 OPS and 221 wRC+ over his last 18 games, hitting .375 and looking every bit the part of the 2020 World Series MVP and NLCS MVP. AJ Pollock just tied his career high in home runs with 21, and amongst 185 batters with at least 400 plate appearances (Pollock is at 418), his 139 wRC+ is tied for 19th with Nick Castellanos, while his .897 OPS is also tied for 19th, with Freddie Freeman and Max Muncy. Pretty remarkable stuff from him. He has a 1.032 OPS and 168 wRC+ over his last 25 games.
The team has scored at least eight runs in four consecutive games now, seemingly peaking at the right time. However if the team ends up in the NL Wild Card game, that offense will need to be ready to face Adam Wainwright.
Here’s how Buehler and Anderson matchup.
Buehler earned his 15th win of the season last time out, allowing just three hits and two walks with five strikeouts in seven scoreless innings. After struggling in his previous starts, he needed just 90 pitches to get through those seven innings, with no runner passing second base. Unfortunately for him, Corbin Burnes had a two inning outing yesterday that could cost him the Cy Young. As this is his final start of the year, here’s how Buehler looks in that Cy Young race. He’s fourth in innings going into today, and with four innings pitched he’ll be second in baseball. He’s currently third in ERA at 2.49, trailing just Burnes (2.43) and Max Scherzer (2.44). He’s second in batting average allowed at .198, trailing just Scherzer (.184), and fourth in WHIP at 0.97. Voters predominantly look at ERA and innings pitched, and if Buehler is right next to those two in ERA, he has 35.2 innings more than Burnes and 23.1 on Scherzer, going into today’s start. However, managing his stats won’t be his goal, as with the NL West still potentially up for grabs, he’ll look to lead the Dodgers to a comfortable win and put some pressure on the Giants.
Anderson has thrown just 95.0 innings this season over 23 starts. This is his third appearance back after a shoulder contusion, after Brandon Crawford laced a liner directly off his shoulder in early September. In those previous two starts he threw just 49 pitches and then 61 just three days ago. As he’s on his two days rest, he’ll be relatively limited in today’s outing. Among 145 starters with at least 90 innings pitched, his 14.5% strikeout rate is the third lowest in baseball, with just 58 strikeouts in those 95 innings, so the team should manage to be able to put the ball in play. As he isn’t built up for more than 5 innings and Milwaukee has a plethora of starting pitching, he might not be making the postseason roster for the Brewers.
He was with the Dodgers for two seasons in 2015 and 2016. One of his best seasons of his career came in 2015, where he logged a still career high 180.1 innings pitched with a 3.69 ERA in 31 starts. He pitched in the 2015 NLDS game three, allowing six earned runs in three innings and receiving the loss, as the Mets went on the make the World Series.
Another super cool piece of info. If the Giants ever lost, this final stretch the Dodgers have put together would be even more enjoyable.
Small move that makes sense after Mitch White pitched one inning last night.
I’m of the same opinion here. Don’t worry about the one game Wild Card Game that would follow a loss in a potential Game 163. You’re the Dodgers, you know you’re better than the Giants, you go into San Francisco, you prove it, and you win your ninth consecutive NL West title. Max Scherzer is available, he gets the ball.
First pitch is at 12:10 PM PDT on SNLA and TBS. The Giants and Padres will be playing simultaneously at 12:05.