Dodgers @ Cubs April 21, 2023: Los Angeles seeks first back-to-back wins in two weeks

James Outman (Photo: Cody Bashore)

Sitting at 10-10 this season, as well as 5-5 in their last 10 games against San Francisco, Chicago and New York, the Dodgers have another chance to win consecutive games for the first time since April 4 and April 6.

James Outman, now the betting co-favorite for National League Rookie of the Year at multiple sportsbooks, is up to 15th in the NL with a 157 wRC+ and tied for 14th in OPS at .958. That’s aided by his BABIP that ranks 17th at .394, and yes his K% is 22nd in baseball at 30.9%, but his BB% is also 30th at 14.7%.

Outman is one of five Dodgers among the NL’s Top 28 in wRC+, with Max Muncy tied for ninth at 163, Freddie Freeman tied for 22nd at 141, Mookie Betts 26th at 133, and J.D. Martinez tied for 28th at 130. Will Smith would be up there if he qualified as he’s at 175, and even Trayce Thompson is at 162.

So once again, there’s your reason for optimism on offense that will likely blow up on me again if they struggle this morning.

Just as it was last Sunday in Los Angeles, Julio Urias will be on the mound for the Dodgers against Drew Smyly for the Cubs. Thankfully the weather shouldn’t be an issue today.

Image Image
11:20 AM Chicago
RF Betts 2B Hoerner
1B Freeman (L) SS Swanson
DH Martinez LF Happ (S)
3B Muncy (L) RF Suzuki
2B Vargas DH Wisdom
LF Outman (L) CF Bellinger (L)
CF Thompson 1B Mancini
SS Williams C Gomes
C Wynns 3B Madrigal
P Urias (L) P Smyly (L)

The experiment of Mookie at short that began last night is on hold to start Friday morning’s game as Luke Williams gets another start following his first hit as a Dodger last night.

Austin Wynns starts the day game after the night game, with Dodger catchers still hitting just 2-for-20 over the past seven games while Thompson starts against a lefty following an 0-for-4 last night. David Peralta has just three at-bats against a left-handed pitcher this season and struggled last season in 65 at-bats (38 wRC+, .462 OPS) with Jason Heyward even worse (19 wRC+, .435 OPS) in 23 at-bats, so Thompson’s 47 wRC+ and .516 OPS this season and last season’s 78 wRC+ and .621 OPS is the best option with Chris Taylor injured and striking out almost 40% of the time.

With that being said, it’s abundantly clear Outman has reached the level of Betts, Freeman, Martinez and Muncy in needing to be in the lineup everyday as this team struggles to get above .500. The Dodgers did figure that out considering he has played in all 20 games with 17 starts, but it is worth noting now after a few weeks of the season. His sample against lefties this season is small, with just 14 plate appearances that includes five walks and a hit by pitch, but there’s little upside with the other options right now.

The Cubs send out just one lefty, Cody Bellinger, and the switch-hitting Ian Happ against Urias though he doesn’t have any have any significant split this season.


The Dodgers managed just one run off Smyly this past weekend, a solo home run by Taylor, with singles by Freeman and Miguel Vargas, and a double by Betts accounting for all the offense. Smyly threw 5 2/3 innings with three strikeouts and two walks, his second straight strong outing after allowing seven runs (six earned) in 4 2/3 innings against the Reds on April 3.

Smyly finished 2022 with 106 1/3 innings across 22 starts, a 3.47 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 91 strikeouts and 26 walks. That was an improvement over 2021’s 4.48 ERA and 5.11 FIP in 126 2/3 innings with 117 strikeouts. That improvement came after Smyly finished a 1-year, $11 million deal with Atlanta before the 2021 season and signed a 1-year, $4.25 million deal with Chicago ahead of the 2022 season. The Cubs brought him back on a 2-year, $19 million deal in December to hold down a place in the rotation as he enters his 10th season in the majors and closes in on his 34th birthday. The Cubs also made the switch as Smyly’s curve becoming his primary pitch over the sinker with a cutter to round out his three pitches.

Right-handed batters are seeing the sinker and knuckle curve just about equally at 44.5% and 43.0% while lefties are at 50% curves, 32% sinkers and 18% cutters across 50 pitches.

The Dodgers trio of lefties in the order last weekend finished a combined 1-for-7 with a walk and single against Smyly, including Freeman striking out twice on the curve. Through his career, the left-handed Smyly has held lefties to .219/.267/.399/.666 and righties to a .261/.321/.452/.773, with 2022 pretty much backing that up (.603 OPS vs. .749) as his pitch usage initially made its transition.


Urias also finished his last outing at 5 2/3 innings, striking out six while allowing eight hits and one walk leading to three runs (two earned). All the trouble came in the 5th and 6th innings, with just two singles allowed in the first four innings.

An error, groundout and infield single scored Chicago’s first run in the 5th before Patrick Wisdom and Bellinger connected against a cutter and fastball respectively for back-to-back home runs. Chicago’s six other hits off Urias were all singles, with a pair of lucky ones (.120 and .250 xBA) and the error (.110 xBA).

Urias did still miss some bats with 13 misses total on 48 swings, with all four of his pitches finishing between 23 and 30 Whiff %. He’s still ranked 21st in Stuff+ at 105, tied for third in Location+ at 107 and tied for 11th in Pitching+ at 107. Primarily it’s been his new cutter (106) that’s tied for eighth and his curve (135) that’s fifth.


Michael Grove won’t be making his next scheduled start on Wednesday in Pittsburgh as he’s now landed on the IL with a groin strain. The Dodgers are off on Monday and could use the day to effectively skip Grove’s turn, delaying the need for a No. 5 starter until what I believe would be Saturday, April 29 in Los Angeles against the Cardinals.

That may all depend on Tony Gonsolin, who started for Triple-A OKC on Thursday and is lined up with Grove’s turn. In the meantime, it is Jake Reed coming up to the majors for his third different stint with the Dodgers. Reed was not on the 40-man roster, so the Dodgers will now place Ryan Pepiot on the 60-day IL, joining Alex Reyes and Daniel Hudson as the recent additions there.

In other roster news that came out after yesterday’s thread was posted, Andre Jackson came back up to the majors with Evan Phillips on paternity leave.


First pitch from Chicago is scheduled for 11:20 a.m. PT on SportsNet LA and MLB Network.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree.