D-backs @ Dodgers – 2023 NLDS Game 1: Kershaw & Kelly start interdivisional playoff clash

Alex already covered the advantages the Dodgers have over the D-backs in this series in plenty of detail yesterday, so I don’t need to open Game 1’s thread with any of that. Instead, here’s the key decisions the Dodgers made for the National League Division Series roster.

While Amed Rosario and Ryan Yarbrough did alright to help the Dodgers get to this point after they were added at the trade deadline, both were left off the roster in favor of Kolten Wong and a combination of Emmet Sheehan and Michael Grove (though it is probably more of the latter than the former).

Wong’s 34 PAs as a Dodger led to a .300/.353/.500/.853 line that really owes a lot to his pair of home runs, but the D-backs have just three lefties on their staff for the series with all of them in the bullpen. Merrill Kelly, Zac Gallen and Brandon Pfaadt likely will start the five games as needed in the series, so Wong’s left-handed bat and defense off the bench makes more sense than Rosario coming off the bench. Yarbrough is left off with Alex Vesia and Caleb Ferguson serving as the left-handed options, while Sheehan, Grove and Ryan Pepiot (if he doesn’t just start Game 3) are all available to offer length in support of either Clayton Kershaw or Lance Lynn.

Since returning from the IL and pitching out of the bullpen, Grove struck out 6 in his 5 innings across three games. That stretch included one walk and one hit allowed, but I am sure people will look at the 6.13 ERA left over from outings like his last length start in July when he allowed eight runs on 10 hits. Those three appearances included the slider rising from 64.9% to 73.7% to 88% in usage after maxing out at 48.5% in any of his starts.

Without looking at every player’s splits individually, the D-backs had a 99 wRC+/.737 OPS against right-handed pitching this season and a 92 wRC+/.710 OPS against lefties. Among the D-backs’ 14 position players in the series, just four are left-handed, with three being switch hitters. Atop the order, Corbin Carroll‘s splits in his rookie season do exist, but he’s still been mostly average against left-handed pitching. Switch-hitting Ketel Marte is above a .800 OPS from both sides of the plate and Christian Walker is better against lefties as you would expect. With days off after Game 1, Game 2 and Game 4, the two lefties in the bullpen should be enough.

Excluding his first outing of September against the Braves where he allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings, Vesia’s final 10 games of the regular season included a 0.93 ERA (1 run) allowed in 9 2/3 innings with 11 strikeouts to no walks. In other words, be prepared for him to face Carroll in some important moment.

Here’s a look at everyone else that is available, with it being as expected:

That pitching staff now includes six pitchers drafted by the organization, two claimed off waivers/signed to a minor league deal (Ryan Brasier/Evan Phillips), four added in trades (Brusdar Graterol, Joe Kelly, Lynn and Vesia) and the reclamation free agent signing of Shelby Miller. That’s a total of about $56.9 million with Lynn accounting for $19 million and Kershaw another $20 million.


Predictably, the Dodgers’ order for Game 1 looks just as everyone would expect, while the D-backs have Alek Thomas in center as the left-handed batter with a 12 wRC+ against lefties in 2023 and a 22 wRC+ in his career.

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6:20 P.M. Los Angeles
2B Marte (S) 2B Betts
RF Carroll (L) 1B Freeman (L)
DH Pham C Smith
1B Walker 3B Muncy (L)
C Moreno DH Martinez
LF Gurriel RF Heyward (L)
CF Thomas (L) LF Peralta (L)
3B Longoria CF Outman (L)
SS Perdomo (S) SS Rojas
P Kelly (R) P Kershaw (L)

In 16 career regular season games, Kelly has thrown 83 2/3 innings against the Dodgers. That stretches all the way back to 2019 with a 5.49 ERA (his second worst against any team he’s made multiple appearances against) and 13 home runs allowed (tied with the Giants for the most by any one opponent). The Dodgers hold a .315/.381/.511/.891 line against Kelly, which is again the highest batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS by a team with multiple games against him.

With Pfaadt and Gallen starting the two Wild Card Series games and Arizona last reaching the postseason in 2017, the 34-year-old Kelly has yet to appear in a postseason game. Kelly is coming off what was maybe his best season among his five in the majors for the D-backs with a 3.29 ERA in 177 2/3 innings with his highest K% (25.9), his second-best K-BB% (16.3) and second-best FIP (3.85).

Because this is the postseason and all of this information is actually pretty important, here’s a massive chart of all of Kelly’s starts against the Dodgers in his career.

Aug. 29, 20235871277310
Aug. 9, 2023685600220
April 6, 20235 2/399642440
March 31, 20233 2/374300440
Sept. 19, 2022697855272
Sept. 13, 2022596533582
May 28, 2022591733251
May 17, 2022256588421
April 25, 2022698733240
Sept. 15, 20214 2/3821044211
July 31, 20216 1/388843260
July 11, 20215 1/388411131
May 20, 20217946330122
Aug. 2, 2020690933042
Aug. 29, 2019478333440
July 3, 2019690633021

Entering 2023, Kelly had given up at least one homer in nine of 12 appearances with four of those including a pair of homers. Impressively he kept the Dodgers in the park in four outings this season, but also has either his worst or second-worst start against Los Angeles a little more than a month ago. Producing their most hits off Kelly and their second-most runs, the Dodgers recorded at least one hit against five of his six pitches. That included going 3-for-3 with three singles on the four sliders Kelly threw, as well as three hits against the fastball and cutter. Nine of the 12 hits were just singles while the Dodgers swung and missed just five times on 87 total pitches. Two of those were Chris Taylor, who managed to go 2-for-2 with a single, double and walk against Kelly anyway.

The 11.1 Whiff% was Kelly’s lowest for a start in 2023 and trails only May 22, 2022’s 10.0%, July 11, 2021’s 10.2% and May 22, 2019’s 0.0% while also matching Sept. 15, 2021’s 11.1%. If you look above, you might notice that Kelly’s 10.2% and 11.1% in 2021 also came against the Dodgers. While one of those games still included just one run on a Mookie Betts‘ homer, the other is Kelly’s second-most hits allowed against the Dodgers at 10. Similar to this August, the Dodgers finished with at least one hit on four of the five types of pitches he threw that day. Six of those came on his fastball which ended 12 at-bats, with the Dodgers also 2-for-2 against the change and 1-for-1 against the cutter.

As for the starts when Kelly was actually striking out the Dodgers? Just four of his 16 games have six or more strikeouts and, unsurprisingly, not many of those players currently remain. In the back-to-back starts from September 2022, Kelly struck out eight and then seven. Of those eight from Sept. 13, 2022, Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger and Joey Gallo combined for five. The next time out, Trea and Gavin Lux recorded two of the seven. Jumping back to Kelly’s career-high 12 strikeouts in 2021, he struck out Yoshi Tsutsugo, Lux, Jimmy Nelson, JT and Albert Pujols a combined eight times, with Tsutsugo coming up with three alone.

That brings us to all the current Dodgers and their career lines against Kelly.

Amed Rosario65000100.833.833.8331.667
Max Muncy3414401365.412.500.6181.118
Freddie Freeman278501148.296.387.593.980
David Peralta104100212.400.455.500.955
Jason Heyward135100222.385.467.462.928
Mookie Betts328103354.250.351.563.914
Will Smith3110201246.323.389.484.873
Chris Taylor3210301636.313.371.500.871
James Outman94000201.444.400.444.844
Miguel Rojas144001403.286.286.500.786
J.D. Martinez71100111.
Kolten Wong102100001.200.200.300.500
Austin Barnes61000003.
Kiké Hernández101000012.

Rosario obviously will not be in the lineup to take advantage of his five singles in six at-bats. A similar small sample size has J.D. just 1-for-7 with a double against Kelly, but I don’t imagine he will end up on the bench for anyone. Will caught Kershaw’s lone postseason appearance in 2022, but it was Barnes behind the plate in all five starts during the 2020 postseason. Once again, small sample sizes apply, but the Dodgers have gone 0-2 with Smith catching Kershaw’s starts in the playoffs, while Barnes is 8-4.


As for Kershaw’s results against the D-backs, I won’t be going back through all 44 career starts against them because that would be insane, but he holds a 2.73 ERA in 267 career innings. Exactly half of those starts have come at Chase Field, where unsurprisingly he hasn’t been as good. A 3.91 ERA in 131 1/3 innings is his seventh-highest among all ballparks. The career line of .210/.266/.354/.620 is considerably lower than his line of .232/.289/.401/.690 at Chase Field, but honestly the recent results against Arizona seem fine. Here’s his past 11 appearances against the D-backs which goes back to 2020. That seems like a convenient breaking point as Kershaw held a 7.36 ERA in 11 innings during the 2019 season, but really it is to account for the point when the slider and fastball began to permanently change in usage after it swapped back-and-forth in 2018 and 2019.

Aug. 29, 2023579311351
April 7, 2023691744242
April 1, 2023676411091
Sept. 19, 20226946110100
Sept. 13, 2022782200150
Sept. 25, 20214 1/373643132
Sept. 13, 20214 1/350411150
May 19, 2021683222181
Sept. 9, 2020557443230
Sept. 3, 2020668100280
Aug. 2, 20205 2/357300060

That’s three starts with four runs allowed, one with two, four with one and three scoreless outings against the D-backs over the past four seasons. Kershaw has actually gone head-to-head with Kelly in four of those 11 meetings against Arizona and allowed two runs with four walks and 26 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings.

Corbin Carroll74002301.571.5711.4292.000
Christian Walker34100058212.294.333.7351.069
Ketel Marte4612213519.261.277.543.820
Evan Longoria39112012314.282.333.410.744
Gabriel Moreno72100001.286.286.429.714
Geraldo Perdomo41000101.
Tommy Pham213000027.
Emmanuel Rivera61000003.
Alek Thomas40000000.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr.70000111.
Jace Peterson40000002.
Pavin Smith30000001.

Carroll has started off his career pretty well, as he already accounts for two of the 11 career home runs the current D-back hitters have against Kershaw. As everyone knows, Walker’s five career homers in 34 at-bats is hilarious, while he’s also striking out a third of the time. Walker also went 2-for-6 against Kershaw this season, homering in his first at-bat against him back on April 1 before striking out twice and walking once the rest of the year. For the most part, Arizona’s lineup just hasn’t seen Kershaw that much. Longoria’s lone season with Arizona included that lone career homer against Kershaw, which was immediately followed by one for Carroll, but he otherwise went 2-for-6 with three strikeouts, a walk and a single.

It’ll be Kershaw’s 12th postseason with the Dodgers and his 39th career appearance since debuting in the 2008 NLCS against the Phillies.


First pitch is scheduled for 6:20 p.m. PT from Dodger Stadium on TBS.

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.