After dropping the first game of the series in walk-off fashion once again, the Dodgers (37-28) bounced back in a big way behind a stellar Bobby Miller outing, and an impressive offensive performance against Aaron Nola. The team will be going for the series win today, but they’ll have their work cut out for them as it’s a bullpen game today. They’ll use a left-handed opener for the second time this series, with Dave Roberts opting for Caleb Ferguson over Victor Gonzalez who started Friday night. The Phillies (31-33) will look to bounce back with Taijuan Walker on the mound.
|3B||Muncy (L)||DH||Harper (L)|
|LF||Peralta (L)||2B||Stott (L)|
|CF||Heyward (L)||CF||Marsh (L)|
|P||Ferguson (L)||P||Walker (R)|
The Phillies will have just two right-handed batters in their lineup today, Trea Turner and Nick Castellanos. Everyone else will bat from the left side, as after Ferguson the Dodgers have just Alex Vesia and Victor Gonzalez available as left-handed pitchers. Actually, as I’m writing this the team recalled Adam Kolarek, so he’ll be available as well.
Chris Taylor will sit today, as Miguel Rojas gets the start at shortstop. Miguel Vargas will start at second base, moving Mookie Betts back into right field as Jason Heyward and David Peralta occupy the outfield with Betts. Peralta has been on a tear lately, adding a double and a home run yesterday after a four hit night in Cincinnati two days prior. Since the beginning of May, Peralta is slashing .350/.384/.525, good for a .909 OPS and 148 wRC+ over 26 games and 86 plate appearances. Defensive metrics all have their issues and generally should be taken carefully, but FanGraphs has him at four defensive runs saved, which is tied with Betts at eleventh among all outfielders. Meanwhile, Statcast has him at 80th percentile in Outs Above Average. Not that it has anything to do with his offensive production, but Peralta is obviously playing an above average left field and has been starting to hit over his last month and a half. J.D. Martinez has 16 home runs now in 49 games, tenth in the majors, but everyone in front of him has at least ten more games played or is Aaron Judge. Mookie Betts is fifth with 17, trailing Max Muncy (18), Shohei Ohtani (18), and two injured stars in Judge (19), and Pete Alonso (22).
Ferguson hasn’t recorded more than three outs in any of his 26 appearances this season, so it would be a surprise to see him work more than one inning. He’d been really good prior to his last three outings, with a 1.35 ERA, 2.22 FIP, and a 1.20 WHIP over his first 23 appearances, with 24 walks to six strikeouts in 20 innings. His last three outings have been much different.
Sunday against the Yankees he allowed two earned runs in one inning, significantly decreasing the team’s potential for a late game comeback. While he didn’t officially give up the walkoff hit in the first game against the Reds, (Shelby Miller allowed a bases loaded single), his three walks allowed in the ninth led to all three runs scoring and the Reds walking off the Dodgers. His last time out, he allowed a walkoff home run to Kyle Schwarber Friday night. As the Dodgers top option against left-handed batters, they’ll need him to get back to form. After that, it’ll be eight innings of to be determined relievers before an off day.
Walker earned the win in his last outing, allowing two hits and three walks over seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. It was his best start to date with the Phillies, as he logged season highs in strikeouts and innings pitched. He’s looked better recently after a rough start to the season, with a 3.53 ERA over his last seven starts after a 6.91 ERA over his first six. He now sports a 5.04 ERA with a 1.37 WHIP and 53 strikeouts to 29 walks across 64.1 innings this year.
In his first season with the Phillies, it’s quite clear their game plan for Walker with his pitch usage. After a career low in 4-seam fastball usage last year at just 29.6%, it’s down even further this year at 22.0%. Additionally, he threw his splitter at a career high rate of 27.6% in 2022, and it’s up even higher this year at 35.8%, his most frequently used pitch. While his 4-seam fastball usage is down, his sinker usage is at a career high 22.9%. Essentially, it would seem the idea is that his 4-seam fastball was and is too hittable, and his splitter and sinker are too good to be throwing infrequently. Additionally, he has three pitches he mixes in very occasionally, a low 80’s slider, a high 80’s cutter, and a mid 70’s curve, all three pitches moving to his glove side. Those three comprise the final 19% of his arsenal. The fastball and sinker sit 92-94, while the splitter is in the high 80s.
His worst start of the year came against the Dodgers, where he went three and a third innings allowing eight earned runs on eight hits and three walks. He’ll look to improve upon that outing while the Dodgers would love to match it.
Emmet Sheehan and Landon Knack both deservedly got promoted to Triple-A. It’ll be fun to follow how those two fare with the stronger competition. Sheehan has a 1.86 ERA with 88 strikeouts to 23 walks in 53.1 innings pitched. Knack has a 2.20 ERA with a minuscule 5.4% walk rate, with 61 strikeouts to 12 walks in 57.1 innings pitched.
Kolarek is back and is a left-handed option out of the bullpen.
First pitch is at 10:35 AM PT on SNLA and MLB Network.