Dodgers @ Pirates April 27, 2023: Wrapping up the road trip with an early morning rubber game

Crashing back to earth in pursuit of their first four-game winning streak of the season, the Dodgers (13-12, second in the NL West) are seeking a series victory with an incredibly early 9:35 a.m. PT finale against the Pirates (17-8, first in the NL Central).

Backed by a six-outfielder offense, Julio Urias looks to bounce back from one of his worst outings over the past few years, while the Pirates send out the 27-year-old Mitch Keller who has thrown at least 6 innings and allowed three or fewer runs in each of his past four starts.

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9:35 AM Pittsburgh
2B Betts 2B Marcano (L)
1B Freeman (L) LF Reynolds (S)
RF Heyward (L) DH McCutchen
CF Outman (L) 1B Joe
DH Peralta (L) SS Castro (S)
SS Taylor CF Suwinski (L)
3B Busch (L) RF Mathias
LF Thompson 3B Maggi
C Barnes C Hedges
P Urias (L) P Keller (R)

A true utility player at this point, Mookie Betts starts his third game of the series at a third different position as he shifts back to the infield at second base. That sends Miguel Vargas, who went 0-for-3 last night but is hitting .286/.348/.381/.729 on the road trip, to the bench for the second time in seven games. That six-game stretch is an improvement on the previous six (.182/.217/.227/.445), and while it still lacks much power, it does include two of his four doubles this season even if one blooped into the outfield at 66.3 mph. At least there’s some sort of improvement?

Max Muncy remains on paternity leave, with Michael Busch (1-for-7 with a walk and three strikeouts in his two games) getting the start at third base while J.D. Martinez, who was just dealing with some slight back soreness and was possibly available to pinch hit last night, will miss his third start after still not going on the IL. I don’t really know who they would call up that could contribute if they did place him on the 10-Day IL (maybe just another arm for the bullpen), but let’s see if this becomes the typical Dodgers’ move of unnecessarily playing a man down once again.

As I mentioned, it’s six outfielders in the order with Betts and Chris Taylor in the infield, as well as David Peralta at DH once again. That leaves Jason Heyward in right field and at the No. 3 spot for a third consecutive game, which hasn’t happened since…

Trayce Thompson gets another start against a right-handed pitcher though he is 1-for-19 over his past seven games with 11 strikeouts to two walks. That lone single since hitting a home run off of Ross Stripling in San Francisco, came against the left-handed David Peterson, and Thompson is 4-for-34 since his three-home run game with 18 strikeouts, six walks and a hit by pitch.

I think it is also worth noting this is now five straight games with Luke Williams on the bench as he has not appeared since pitching the end of the Dodgers’ 13-0 loss in Chicago. Miguel Rojas needs a rehab assignment and is looking at a return next week, so it really may just be Taylor and Betts with Williams on the roster as insurance for the next homestand against St. Louis and Philadelphia.

For the Pirates, most importantly they are giving Drew Maggi his first career start.


Keller holds a 3.64 ERA, 4.28 FIP and 104 Pitching+ through his 29 2/3 innings this season, with a 24.0 K% and a 8.8 BB%. Teams haven’t hit Keller very hard to begin the 2023 season, with his average exit velocity in the 89th percentile and his hard hit percentage in the 97th percentile. Both are well under his career averages with this season’s 85.3 mph and 21.7% compared to a career 88.7 mph and 39.2%.

Specifically, Keller’s 95.5 mph fastball is down at 83.9 mph on average with a .126 xBA, a .176 xSLG and a .221 xWOBA with 16 strikeouts in 38 PAs. The pitch isn’t drastically different than it was in the past, but he’s held the velocity improvement from 2021 of about 1.5 mph while it’s up another inch in horizontal break. After throwing a cutter for the first three seasons of his major league career, Keller didn’t throw it in 2022 (Baseball Savant seems to have called it a slider while he also now threw a sweeper) while upping the speed of his four-seamer. Now that he’s back to throwing the cutter, it’s at its highest velocity in his career (90.7 mph) while reducing the vertical break to drop below his changeup with the horizontal break the lowest of his career. Last season’s slider that now doesn’t exist essentially matched his 2020 cutter in speed, his 2022 cutter in vertical movement and topped all of them in horizontal break while he threw a sweeper for the first time.

In 2023, right-handed batters are getting 33.8% sinkers, 25.7% sweepers, 19.1% cutters and 14.7% fastballs with the occasional curve. For lefties, which make up 2 through 5 in the Dodgers’ order today, it’s 33.0% fastball, 30.1 % cutter, 23.4% curve and 8.6% chanegup. The fastball has been especially tough for left-handed batters this season with Keller’s splits essentially equal in 2023 at .204/.291/.408/.699 for lefties and .254/.314/.381/.695 after the OPS had tilted in favor of lefties (.825) vs. righties (.771) through the early part of his career.


I’ll keep it brief about Urias today because it is early, I am running out of time to get this posted around the time before first pitch that I normally would, and honestly he was just so bad against Chicago there’s not much to say.

While a few other pitchers in his last outing also had velocities that were down just slightly, Urias was down 0.6 mph on his fastball, 1.3 on his changeup, 1.4 on his slurve and 1.5 on his cutter. While he was a little unlucky on Cody Bellinger‘s home run (96.2 mph, 376 feet, .150 xBA), Urias allowed four balls that were 100 mph or higher off the bat in his 3 1/3 innings. The Cubs connected on a single, double and home run against Urias’ fastball, with another fastball with a .540 xBA run down by Thompson in center.

As has been mentioned before, the Cubs have a .906 OPS in eight career games against Urias to lead all teams which includes nine home runs to tie the Giants for the second-most. The Rockies lead with 11 in 352at-bats, followed by the Giants and Cubs with nine at 418 and 130 at-bats respectively. For whatever reason, it’s just a struggle against Chicago as that OPS is well ahead of his career .634 allowed.


The starters for this weekend in Los Angeles against the Cardinals.

Will Smith is still on track to return Saturday.


First pitch is set for 9:35 a.m. 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.