With a 10-game road trip to St. Louis, Atlanta and Tampa Bay set to begin tomorrow night, the Dodgers are looking to finish off their homestand with a 5-1 record and improve on their National League-best 16 home victories.
Since leaving Pittsburgh on April 27, the Dodgers hold a 14-3 record. Related, Will Smith returned to the lineup on April 28 and the team has won 13 of 14 games with him in the lineup. Smith returned from his two-week absence and imitatively picked up where he left off as he’s slashed .315/.409/.593/1.002 with an equal number of home runs (4) to strikeouts across those 66 plate appearances. After he was out of the lineup yesterday with Clayton Kershaw pitching, Smith is back behind the plate and batting third today.
Unsurprisingly, that 14-3 run does not include back-to-back losses with the last “losing streak” coming back against the Pirates on April 26 and 27.
|12:10 PM||Los Angeles|
|1B||Kirilloff (L)||1B||Freeman (L)|
|2B||Polanco (S)||DH||Heyward (L)|
|CF||Gordon (L)||CF||Outman (L)|
|P||Gray (R)||P||May (R)|
After five consecutive games in the lineup upon his return from a nearly 20-day stay on the IL, J.D. Martinez gets a day off as Jason Heyward takes over at DH. Heyward is suddenly 0-for-14 over his past six games with three walks to five strikeouts after going 8-for-16 during a seven-game stretch from the end of April to early May. James Outman is also 0-for-12 since last Wednesday, though that followed a 5-for-15 run over a four-game stretch. And really I am just listing all of those brief hitless streaks as a lead up for poor Trayce Thompson, who has to face vastly improved Sonny Gray. Now at 0-for-30 with seven walks and 18 strikeouts since his single against David Peterson on April 17, Thompson is at least facing a right-handed starter as he is unfortunately just about two-thirds of the way to Eugenio Velez‘s 0-for-46 run. Thompson does have a homer in his career against Gray, as does Heyward and Max Muncy.
For the Twins, it’s four left-handed batters and two switch hitters against the right-handed Dustin May. It’s just about the same order as the series opener, with Kyle Farmer on the bench and Willi Castro at third.
Through 45 1/3 innings in 2023, Gray has a 1.39 ERA, 1.89 FIP, 3.12 xFIP and 96 Stuff+ that ranks 39th among qualified pitchers. That’s backed by a slider (sweeper) that ranks at a 126 which is tied for seventh in baseball and a cutter at 114 that ranks fifth. In his second season with the Twins after being traded by the Reds, the 33-year-old Gray is set to be a free agent after the season. That’s pretty convenient timing as he’s at a career-best 30.8 K% and has yet to allow a home run in 2023.
Gray’s cutter is a new addition to his arsenal, with it’s 19.1% usage well ahead of any previous season while holding a .171 wOBA. The sweeper’s .174 wOBA is his best for the pitch since 2019, though it’s .175 xwOBA is the best he’s ever had. Right-handed batters are going to see an even split of sinkers, cutters and sweepers in addition to 14.8% curves and 8.8% four-seamers. Gray’s held right-handed batters to a .175/.243/.237/.480 with a 39.8 K% in 108 plate appearances, so good luck Trayce. For the four left-handed batters, it’ll be 37.9% curves, 28.3% four-seamers and 17.9% changeups with the occasional three primary pitches for righties. That’s a .239/.311/.313/.624 line and a 17.6 K% in 74 plate appearances.
No Dodger in the lineup has much consistent success in their career against Gray, with Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts four career hits leading the way though they are in 12 and 27 at-bats respectively.
I wrote a ton about May less than a week ago, so I don’t have much more to say with just one more start to build on the data.
In his second consecutive start against the Padres, May elected to drop the sinker back down to 30% while the cutter (21.1%), four-seamer (20.0%) and
curve sweeper (18.9%) all pretty similar and increased at just about an identical rate. That was a season-high in usage for the cutter, but each pitch still generated exactly 1 miss by the Padres as May finished the game at 11%.
The curve continued to be a sweeper, with an average vertical break of 36 inches and 10 inches horizontally. The 87.3 mph held steady as well, and would rank as the second fastest sweeper in the league if it was shifted to that category.
May still doesn’t have a considerable split this season, though right-handed batters are striking out much less than left-handed batters at 13.9% to 20.2%.
Dylan Covey is going to return to the majors for the first time since 2020, with his last appearance being Sept. 24 for the Red Sox. Pitching for the Rakuten Monkeys in 2021 and 2022, Covey has a 4.22 ERA in 32 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City where he has started six of his seven appearances. He’s got 28 strikeouts to 18 walks.
First pitch from Dodger Stadium is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. on SportsNet LA.