Dodgers @ Braves 2021 NLCS Game 2: Scherzer on the mound as the Dodgers seek to even the series

Well, the Dodgers managed to lose Game 1 of the NLCS. After a very tough NLDS going down to the wire against the Giants, the team followed that up with a pretty miserable offensive showing, managing just two runs on ten hits. The bullpen carried their weight once again, allowing just three runs on six hits, and managing to strikeout 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman four times. They can easily win the series from here, going down 0-1 in a seven game series is fine, and splitting the first two games and heading home for three games sets the team up very well. The issue is that they should’ve won the game last night easily. It was harder to lose that game than it was to win, and somehow they managed the former. Will Smith hit a solo home run, so with nine other hits they managed to plate just one more run. If it were May, that’d be a different story, but it’s October with a star studded lineup. Today, the Dodgers have Max Scherzer on the mound, up against the 23 year-old righty, Ian Anderson.

If you’d like to see a preview or detailed matchup between these two teams as a whole, Dustin’s series preview lays out all the matchups and details very well. If you’d like to see a recap as to how the team squandered multiple opportunities yesterday, Chad’s recap from last night is good as well.

4:38 PM Atlanta
RF Betts LF Rosario (L)
SS Seager (L) 1B Freeman (L)
2B T. Turner 2B Albies (S)
C Smith 3B Riley
CF Lux (L) RF Pederson (L)
3B Taylor CF Duvall
1B Bellinger (L) C d’Arnaud
LF Pollock SS Swanson
P Scherzer (R) P Anderson (R)

The Braves will run out the exact same lineup as yesterday. They didn’t have a particularly successful time at the plate, as they managed just six hits with no walks and fourteen strikeouts. Freddie Freeman was 0-4 with four strikeouts, which I doubt happens very often. Ozzie Albies had two hits, one being a bloop single that turned into the game winning run, while Austin Riley had the solo home run off Tony Gonsolin and the walk-off single. Pretty poor performance by their offense as a whole, but three runs was all it took to beat the Dodgers who still cannot find a way to manage any sort of consistency within their offense.

The Dodgers did look better than they had in the low scoring games in the Giants series, as they were able to tag Max Fried for eight hits in six innings. That’s solid against one of the best pitchers in baseball in the second half. The team was 1-8 with runners in scoring position, leaving runners in scoring position in five separate innings, and Chris Taylor was thrown out in a base running mistake in the ninth, which could’ve put another runner in scoring position to strand. Optimistically, the offense looked better. Pessimistically, the inability to capitalize on situations like that will eventually catch up to them in the postseason. They barely managed it against the Giants, and still are favored in this series, but it will catch up to them. They should be up 1-0 with Max Scherzer starting today, with the ability to really put Atlanta in a bad position. Splitting the first two games on the road is still a success, and that’s what the team will look to do today.

Justin Turner is on the bench tonight as Taylor starts at third. Turner managed a hit last night, but prior to that he had just two hits in the postseason, one being the solo home run in the Wild Card game. Multiple times he let fastballs down the middle go by him, and seeing him in 0-2, and 1-2 counts is odd, when he’s typically battling and getting himself into favorable counts. Dave Roberts said he has a neck stinger, but either way he could use the day off. Taylor was 2-3 last night with a walk, and even with the base running mistake, did his job to help the team. Cody Bellinger continues to look solid, managing a pinch hit single off the left-handed Will Smith on a slider. He’ll get the start at first base today against the right-handed Anderson. Gavin Lux will also get the start in center field, and he’s looked good, going 3-9 in the NLDS, with two walks and two strikeouts.

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Here’s how Scherzer and Anderson matchup.

This postseason, Scherzer first appeared in the NL Wild Card Game on 10/6, going 4.1 innings allowing just one earned run on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts. He was grinding that game but has since cleaned up his mechanics and seemingly gotten back on track. He started on normal rest on 10/11, looking like the Scherzer everyone is used to seeing, going seven dominant innings against the Giants in Game 3 of the NLDS, allowing just one run on three hits and one walk with ten strikeouts. Of course as everyone remembers, the Dodgers still managed to lose that game. He then proceeded to pitch the ninth inning of Game 5, earning the save which was on two days rest. Regular rest for him prior to that would be starting on 10/16, but he’s been pushed back one day due to the save on 10/14. He now features a 1.46 ERA, 2.85 FIP, and a 0.81 WHIP this postseason.

He faced the Braves twice this season, once as a Dodger and once as a National. With the Dodgers he went six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits with nine strikeouts. He faced them in the beginning of April as a member of the Nationals, going six innings allowing four runs on five hits, although all four runs came on four solo home runs. One to Freeman, one to Dansby Swanson, and two to Ronald Acuna Jr. who thankfully the Dodgers don’t need to worry about. Scherzer recently said that Freeman is the toughest batter he’s ever faced, but in 47 at bats against him, Freeman has just a .234/.327/.511 slash line, with 11 hits (three home runs), seven walks and twelve strikeouts. Good, but no Shin-Soo Choo who dominated Scherzer, with a slash line of .583/.667/1.125, good for a 1.792 OPS, with 14 hits and six walks in 30 plate appearances.

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To clarify, this Ian Anderson is the third overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft, not the lead-singer of the 1970’s British rock band, Jethro Tull. Although, at this rate the Dodgers wouldn’t be able to hit him either either.

Anderson has made just one start this postseason, coming in Game 3 of the NLDS at home against the Brewers. He went five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and no walks while striking out six. He was excellent in the postseason last year, making four starts allowing just two earned runs in 18.2 innings pitched, good for a 0.96 ERA. Two of those starts came against the Dodgers in the NLCS, the first of which he allowed no runs on one hit and five walks in five innings, and then his worst start came in Game 7, allowing two earned runs in three innings on five hits and two walks.

This was a solid second season for the young right-hander, although he missed roughly six weeks starting in mid July with right-shoulder inflammation. After his return, he struggled a bit, with a 4.39 ERA, 5.98 FIP, and a 1.20 WHIP, walking twelve in his final 26.2 innings. He had a 3.53 ERA at home this year, compared to 3.63 on the road, so it doesn’t appear there’s much difference there, but he’s allowed just a .603 OPS at home, compared to a .695 OPS on the road. The run prevention is similar, but the trend is that he struggles more on the road, likely helping the Braves make their decision to start him today, instead of Charlie Morton on regular rest. Additionally, Anderson is already on extra rest. It’s nothing extreme, but something worth noting is that he’s had slight reverse splits in his young career, allowing a .205/.277/.367 slash against left-handed batters this season, compared to .236/.321/.374 against right-handed batters. More important than that however, is that guys such as Smith, Lux, and Bellinger, seemingly see the ball significantly better against right-handed pitching. He throws his fastball roughly half the time (47.1%), sitting in the mid 90’s, and it’s a very effective pitch despite having relatively low spin, averaging just 2,054 RPM. His main off-speed offering is the changeup, which he goes to 31.4% of the time, sitting in the upper 80’s, mixing in a low 80’s curveball as his third pitch.

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This is a pretty remarkable stat. Hopefully Mookie Betts can get a hit tonight after failing to reach base yesterday.

It’s definitely crazy to see a starting lineup in October without Turner in it, but the offense has been putrid and Turner hasn’t looked like himself at all.

Regardless, the offense should try scoring more than two runs.

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First pitch is at 4:38 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!