Tigers @ Dodgers April 30, 2022: Kershaw looks for fourth win and Dodgers’ all-time strikeout record

After a sad performance in Arizona where the team lost two of three games to the Diamondbacks (10-12), the Dodgers (13-6) started the first of a five-game homestead with a win, beating the Detroit Tigers (6-13) comfortably by a score of 5-1. The Tigers had a decent start to the year flirting with a .500 record, but have proceeded to lose six consecutive games now, dropping them to last place in the AL Central. They’ll have a tough task ahead of them to stop that skid now, as they’ll have the 24 year-old rookie Beau Brieske making his second career start, up against Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw (2,693) is four strikeouts away from passing Don Sutton (2,696) for the most strikeouts in Dodger history.

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7:10 PM Los Angeles
LF Grossman (S) RF Betts
SS Báez 1B Freeman (L)
DH Cabrera SS T. Turner
RF Meadows (L) 3B Muncy (L)
1B Torkelson DH J. Turner
2B Schoop CF Bellinger (L)
3B Candelario (S) LF Taylor
C Garneau 2B Lux (L)
CF Hill C Barnes
P Brieske (L) P Kershaw (L)

The team will put out a very similar lineup as yesterday, swapping Justin Turner and Max Muncy in the batting order and positions, as Turner will be the designated hitter while Muncy plays third. Austin Barnes will catch Kershaw for the third time this season, with Will Smith behind the plate during Kershaw’s worst start of the year. Kershaw had nearly identical results with Barnes/Smith behind the plate last season, but Barnes is Kershaw’s primary catcher.

Speaking of Barnes, he’s the driving force behind this offense, with a team leading 176 wRC+ and .958 OPS this year. Jokes aside, he’s had just 18 plate appearances thus far but any offense from him is a bonus. With offense down league wide, the only below average hitters in this lineup by wRC+ are Muncy (93 wRC+, .619 OPS), and Justin Turner (63 wRC+, .555 OPS). While they’ve definitely struggled, both have underperformed their Expected Weighted On-base Average (xwOBA) by sizable amounts, and with their successful track records, there’s no reason to lose faith in either.

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As Brieske has made just one start in the Majors, here’s how Kershaw has been thus far.

In his last start, Kershaw kept the Padres off the bases for the most part and allowed just one run in five innings en route to his third consecutive win to start his season. Early on in the season most sample sizes are so small that they’re not worth digging too deep into, but of 103 starters to pitch at least 17 innings thus far, Kershaw ranks 10th in FIP (2.10), first in WHIP (0.59), 11th in batting average allowed (.167), second in strikeout rate (37.7%), and only Kershaw and Kevin Gausman are yet to allow a walk this season. Much of those impressive numbers are due to his perfect seven innings in his first start of the year, but regardless he looks very good. His fastball velocity has ticked up in all three of his starts this season, starting out at 89.9 MPH in his season debut, up to 91.2 MPH in his previous start. That mark is higher than all but one of his starts last season, where he averaged 91.7 MPH.

For the young right-handed Brieske, his first major-league start came last Saturday against Colorado, where he allowed three runs on three hits and two walks while striking out three in five innings. Two members of the Detroit starting rotation in Casey Mize and Matt Manning are both on the injured list, so Brieske will likely remain in the Majors until they return. The Dodgers have the fourth highest wRC+ against right-handed pitching this year at 120, so Brieske will have his work cut out for him. Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein of FanGraphs had a solid writeup about Brieske earlier in the year as a fringe top ten prospect for the Tigers, so I’ll just link what they had to say about him. “Beau Brieske, a 27th round steal from the 2019 draft who has already reached Double-A and is likely to be a short-term rotation candidate for the big league club. Brieske goes right at hitters. His fastball’s shallow approach angle gives it bat-missing utility at the top of the zone and he knows how to use it to set up his sweeping slider. He’ll also occasionally create bat-missing action on his changeup, and can dump in a slower curveball early in the count to try to get ahead of hitters, though this pitch is hittable when it catches too much of the zone.” Per FanGraphs. His fastball sits in the mid 90’s, using a slider and changeup both in the low to mid 80’s as his primary offspeed pitches.

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Andre Jackson will go back to OKC for the time being, while Carson Fulmer will be given a brief shot. Fulmer has a 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings for OKC with just five hits allowed. The former first rounder is out of options, so when rosters get trimmed down early this coming week there’s a good chance he’s the odd man out.

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This is cool, although I’d honestly guess the numbers with Barnes would be higher.

Leading one of the most storied franchises in MLB history in career strikeouts is extremely impressive. With the average innings a starting pitcher throws in a season decreasing, it’s going to become increasingly more difficult for future starters to touch records like this.

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Fun.

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First pitch is at 7:10 PM PDT on SNLA.

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!