After a red-hot August (still time for one more win), the Dodgers (83-49) now own the second best record in baseball, trailing only the visiting Atlanta Braves (87-45). The Dodgers took two of three games against the Braves back in May, but late into the season this will be a good litmus test for both teams to see where they’re at. I’m assuming that as of right now, most people would have Atlanta and Los Angeles in the NLCS if they had to bet. If the Dodgers were to sweep, they’d be tied with Atlanta for the best record in baseball. If the Dodgers were to get swept, no massive deal as the division is all but secured with a 14.5 game lead, but the odds of catching the Braves for home field in the postseason all but disappears. All that’s certain is that the two best teams in baseball face off tonight, opening a four game series with Lance Lynn and Spencer Strider on the mound.
|7:10 PM||Los Angeles|
|CF||Harris II (L)||1B||Freeman (L)|
|1B||Olson (L)||3B||Muncy (L)|
|LF||Rosario (L)||RF||Heyward (L)|
|P||Strider (R)||P||Lynn (R)|
These are the two best offenses in the game.
The Braves own the best offense in baseball by a long shot. The Dodgers are great, but it’s not close. Atlanta has hit a league leading 250 home runs, with the Dodgers in second with 208. The biggest story line is that Ronald Acuna Jr., Mookie Betts, and Freddie Freeman are all vying for the MVP award. Acuña might be the favorite at the time being, and while worthy, Betts is right on his heels.
Acuña has a .982 OPS and 165 wRC+. Betts has a 1.021 OPS and 175 wRC+, with his above-average base-running and defense putting him far ahead of Acuña in the WAR department. FanGraphs has Betts at 7.5 fWAR with Acuña at 6.5, while Baseball-Reference has Betts at 7.6 bWAR and Acuña at 6.5. Acuña does have an absurd 61 stolen bases with a month left, but his base-running metrics are merely “good” considering that. It’s very likely he ends up with 30+ home runs and 70 stolen bases, and even if Betts is ahead in OPS, wRC+, and WAR, it’ll be hard to beat that combination of stats. We’ll see. Freeman is also having an insane season, with a .998 OPS and 169 wRC+. He currently has 51 doubles, looking to be the first player post WWII with 60+ doubles in a season.
Here’s how tonight’s starters matchup amongst 54 qualified starting pitchers.
Lynn earned his tenth win of the season his last time out, and his fourth in five starts with the Dodgers. He wasn’t perfect, as he allowed three earned runs on ten hits and a walk over six-plus innings last Friday, with just one strikeout. While it was his worst start since joining the team, he’s now he’s now 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in five starts. He’s been great with the Dodgers, but especially so in the innings department, going at least six innings in four of his five starts. That’s a big deal, especially with a powerful offense behind you, as it allows the team more time to score.
That being said, Lynn leads baseball in home runs allowed with 34. The Braves lead baseball with 250 home runs. You can see where this is going. It’ll be a good test to see where Lynn is at as well. If these two teams meet in the playoffs, is he playable? We’ll see.
Strider (15-4) allowed a run on three hits and a walk while striking out nine over seven innings to earn the win Friday over the Giants. His scoreless streak came to an end at 14 innings. The 24 year-old righty has a 3.46 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 236 strikeouts to 47 walks in just 153.1 innings across 26 starts this season. His 236 strikeouts lead baseball, with Kevin Gausman second with 202. Strider has an outside shot at 300 strikeouts. While he does have gaudy strikeout numbers and is clearly the most overpowering starting pitcher in the game right now, he’d likely finish second in Cy Young voting this year if the season ended today. Unfortunately, Blake Snell has a 2.60 ERA and is the frontrunner in my eyes, as Strider’s 3.45 ERA is just simply too far away from 2.60.
Either way, he’s dominant and it’ll take a real performance to put runs on the board.
Getting Walker Buehler back for October could be huge, but expectations should be tempered. He’s supposedly been sitting 91-93 MPH, and likely needs time to get back into the swing of things.
Additionally, it looks like Emmet Sheehan will be back on the big league roster come Saturday.
First pitch is at 7:10 PM PT on SNLA and MLB Network.