Giants @ Dodgers 2021 NLDS Game 4: Buehler on short rest to avoid elimination

After splitting the first two games in San Francisco, the Dodgers had a rather large advantage going into Game 3. They had Max Scherzer on the mound against Alex Wood, with a chance to put the Giants on the ropes. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. The team got an absolute gem from Scherzer who hadn’t been himself as of late, allowing just one earned run over seven innings with ten strikeouts, against a top three offense against right-handed pitching. He was terrific, and the offense completely let that performance go to waste, getting shutout for the second time in three games. They’re now playing in an elimination game for the second time within a week, and will need the bats to wake up to force a Game 5. The team and players are talented and experienced enough to pull that off, and will be up against the right-handed Anthony DeSclafani. Walker Buehler will be on the mound for the Dodgers, starting on three days rest.

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6:07 PM Los Angeles
2B La Stella (L) RF Betts
1B Ruf SS Seager (L)
SS Crawford (L) 2B T. Turner
C Posey C Smith
RF Bryant 3B J. Turner
LF Wade Jr. (L) CF Lux (L)
3B Longoria 1B Bellinger (L)
CF Yastrzemski (L) LF Taylor
P DeSclafani (R) P Buehler (R)

There isn’t much I can say about this offense that you don’t already know. Was there wind at Dodger Stadium? Yes. Was it the first time any team has ever had to play in wind? No. Was there some unfavorable luck going the way of the Dodgers? Yes. Was there exceptional defense played by the Giants? Yes. At the end of the day, you do need make your own luck. You’re the defending World Series Champions, you need to be able to score one run. Not a huge ask. It’s not like the Dodgers were up against Max Scherzer. We’d seen this feast or famine offense before, so they don’t get the benefit of the doubt as if mother nature simply didn’t want them to win. It wasn’t as if they’d been scoring ten runs a game for the last month and then randomly had a game in which they were shutout. This was the third of four postseason games in which the offense has looked poor. For players of their caliber, if you can’t score one run at home against Wood and other relievers that you wouldn’t be able to name prior to this season, you don’t deserve to advance in the playoffs. It’s as simple as that. The Giants deserve to be up 2-1 in this series.

In terms of lineup changes, Will Smith slides up to the cleanup spot which is important as he’s been hitting the ball better than nearly everyone on the team. Gavin Lux will be making his first start of the postseason, after lacing a ball that would’ve likely been a pinch hit game tying home run without the wind last night. Cody Bellinger also starts at first base against the right-handed DeSclafani. Chris Taylor in left field and Gavin Lux in center field is a bit of a surprise as I figured they’d be switched, but either way, the matchups make sense. The team needs offense. The Dodgers are more talented, with better players at most positions. Their depth has cost them, but the top end talent should be able to overcome that issue. Relying on Steven Souza Jr. or Austin Barnes clearly shows an issue with roster depth, but that should easily be offset by having Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Corey Seager, Smith, Justin Turner, Taylor, and AJ Pollock. So yes, having better bats off the bench would be great, and the team is missing Max Muncy, but that’s no excuse for poor performances.

One issue is that the Turner’s have two total hits in 26 plate appearances between them in the NLDS. The offense looked bad in the Wild Card game against the Cardinals as well, but Justin Turner saved them with a solo shot. He’s been on base just once since then with four strikeouts. Trea has three hits in 17 plate appearances in the postseason, but again just one hit in 13 plate appearances in the NLDS. Seager has two hits and four strikeouts in the playoffs after a torrid second half. He’s been on base just four times. AJ Pollock had two hits in Game 2, but is hitless in the other three postseason games and features six strikeouts. Bellinger with two hits and two walks has been better than a handful of everyday starters which is great for him, but speaks to the state of the current offense. Taylor has put together some solid plate appearances, obviously including the NLDS walk off home run, but also has two walks and no strikeouts. Betts and Smith have both been solid. The offense had five hits yesterday. Two from Albert Pujols in two at-bats, one being a bloop single. Souza had another one, while two everyday players in Justin Turner and Smith each had one.

You can also choose to be optimistic based on quality of contact and expected batting average in the game last night. There were twenty hard hit balls over 94 MPH last night (feels like a lot considering the score was 1-0). The highest exit velocity was the Evan Longoria home run which would’ve needed a tornado to keep in at 110 MPH off the bat, but 15 of those 20 hard hit balls were hit by Dodgers.

At least there is an avenue towards positivity. Additionally, the Giants offense has been bad, they’ve just been good enough to win two games and that’s all it takes.

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Here’s how Buehler and DeSclafani matchup. It’s likely Buehler won’t be going deep into the game due to pitching on short rest, but as he is starting, here’s how he looks.

This is Buehler’s first career start in any capacity in the majors on short rest. With the team backed into a corner, it makes sense. In Game 1 of the NLDS last Friday, Buehler allowed three runs on six hits and a walk while striking out five in 6.1 innings. He gave up a solo home run to Kris Bryant in the seventh inning, but the real damage came in the first inning. After a Tommy La Stella leadoff walk, Buehler fell behind in the count 3-0 to Buster Posey and threw a fastball over the heart of the plate to one of the best hitting catchers of all time. Bad call. He now owns a 2.53 ERA in 67.2 postseason innings. He held the Giants scoreless across the next five frames before giving up that solo shot to Bryant, but the game already felt lost the way Logan Webb was pitching. Starting behind didn’t help an already spotty offense. As he’s never pitched on short rest, there isn’t much to say there. He’s a tough pitcher always ready for the moment, and using him in an elimination game is likely the best move the team can make.

After Buehler is done, which can be anywhere from two to five innings I would presume, Tony Gonsolin is likely the next guy to come in. He’s been pretty good when healthy this season, which admittedly hasn’t been often, with a 3.23 ERA and 27.2% strikeout rate in 55.2 innings pitched. His numbers profile similar to last season, the one big issue is his 14.2% walk rate with 34 walks in 55.2 innings pitched, compared to seven walks in 46.2 innings last season. There have been 338 pitchers this season that have logged at least 50 innings, and Gonsolin’s 14.2% walk rate is the tenth highest. Not where you want to be. His .200 batting average allowed is right next to Buehler (.197), Brandon Woodruff (.198) and Corbin Burnes (.199). He just needs to throw strikes, as the Giants will punish him if he walks batters or gives them favorable counts. He should have a quick hook because it takes just one bad inning to be eliminated from the playoffs. He hasn’t gone more than 81 pitches or five innings this season, so in a perfect world between Buehler and Gonsolin, the Dodgers would make it to the eighth inning, giving way to Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen. They both pitched an inning yesterday, but they’ve been off for four days prior to that and as always in elimination games, it’s all hands on deck.

DeSclafani last started on 10/1, with a solid start to close out his regular season, going five scoreless innings against the Padres. He finished with career lows in ERA, FIP, and WHIP, while notching double-digit wins for the first time in his career. It’s been an interesting year for him, as he’s faced the Dodgers six times this season and gotten absolutely crushed, while being a force against the rest of the league.

Here’s how he’s fared against both this season.

DeSclafani vs. Leaguevs. Dodgers
Starts256
Innings Pitched140.227.0
ERA2.377.33
FIP3.215.72
WHIP0.961.78
OPS Allowed.580.875
K%22.7%21.4%
BB%4.9%11.9%

Very strange. There isn’t necessarily any certainty that they’ll continue to destroy him, and of course DeSclafani and the Giants will have adjusted. In his last start against the Dodgers coming in early September, he went six scoreless innings allowing just two hits and three walks. Since that last start he’s made five more, totaling 32.0 innings to finish his season, with a 2.25 ERA, 2.58 FIP, and 1.03 WHIP in that stretch. This will be his first postseason appearance. After watching the Dodgers struggle against the slider this series, it’s likely he leans on it heavily as he already throws it 35.7% of the time.

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I agree with this, also it doesn’t matter if the offense doesn’t score.

Should the Dodgers advance, having Julio Urias as your starter in an elimination game is something all teams would be comfortable with.

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Have to say, this is too many times. I don’t like it.

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The Astros beat the White Sox today and will play the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, the exact same matchup as in 2018. If the forces align and want a total rematch, the Brewers and the Dodgers will meet in the NLCS, the Dodgers and Red Sox will meet in the World Series and, hopefully in this scenario it wouldn’t be identical to the way that series played out.

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First pitch is at 6:07 PM PDT on TBS.

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!