Dodgers @ Cubs April 7, 2024: Seeking a series win in the first road trip of the season

(Photo: Cody Bashore)

Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the Cubs (5-3) at Wrigley Field was the first time this season the Dodgers (8-3) failed to score more than four runs in a game, but still put the team in position for a third series victory to start the season in the United States. That would be thanks to Yoshinobu Yamamoto escaping a bases loaded jam with no outs in the 1st inning on Saturday and then retiring the final 10 batters he faced.

That’ll be up to Gavin Stone and the Dodgers’ fifth game against a left-handed starter in 2024 (and I guess the weather given the 40 to 80% chance of rain in Chicago today). With wins against Zack Thompson on March 29, Steven Matz on March 31, Kyle Harrison on April 3 and Jordan Wicks yesterday, the team is currently slashing .280/.368/.455/.823 in 163PAs (second-most in all of baseball) with a 128 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. That includes a league-high 6 home runs off of left-handed pitching with a sixth-best 15.0 HR/FB%. Obviously those are all small samples to start, but it felt worth noting compared to last year’s .246/.334/.453/.787 114 wRC+.

For the Cubs, it’ll be Shota Imanaga, Yamamoto’s teammate with Japan in last year’s World Baseball Classic, on the mound who has obviously yet to see the Dodgers as he’s just one game into his Major League career after signing a four-year, $53 million contract with Chicago in January.


As has been the case in their previous four games against left-handers this season, Enrique Hernandez, Miguel Rojas and Chris Taylor are all in the lineup for the Dodgers. It also doesn’t include Max Muncy against a left-handed starter for the second time this season as Gavin Lux is in the lineup at second base.

That sends Rojas to third base for the first time this season and just the third time since 2018. The Dodgers put him there for 2 innings last year while Miami did so for 3 innings in 2020. You have to go back to the 2018 season when Rojas finished the year with 285 2/3 innings across 39 games for his most significant experience at third base.

With one Hernandez in center field rather than at third base as he was when Muncy didn’t start against a lefty on March 31, the other Hernandez is in right field with Taylor finishing out the outfield in left as you would expect. Taylor is still seeking his second hit of the season as he’s started the year 1-for-18

Will Smith and his 1.055 OPS is back behind the plate after Austin Barnes started Saturday afternoon to catch Stone. Unfortunately, that’s a downgrade from Barnes’ 1.071 OPS.

Image Image
11:20 A.M. Chicago
SS Betts DH Happ (S)
DH Ohtani (L) RF Suzuki
1B Freeman (L) CF Bellinger (L)
C Smith 3B Morel
RF T. Hernandez SS Swanson
CF E. Hernandez 1B Busch (L)
LF Taylor 2B Hoerner
2B Lux (L) LF Tauchman (L)
3B Rojas C Amaya
P Stone (R) P Imanaga (L)

In his lone start this season, Stone allowed 3 runs on 7 hits and 1 walk across 5 innings against the Cardinals on March 31. The start also included a career-high 6 strikeouts, with three of those swinging against Stone’s changeup in the 1st inning. Another two came swinging against the change with one swinging against the sinker as Stone finished with 16 misses on 46 swings. Nine of those came from 18 swings against the change for a 50% Whiff rate with the pitch.

Stone finished last season with a 41.4 Whiff% with the change last season, but was also up to 87.7 mph against the Cardinals while it was at 85.8 mph in 2023.

Stone essentially used the change (33.3%), the sinker (26.7%) and the four-seamer (24.4%) equally against St. Louis’ right-handed batters. Shifting to 50% changeups to lefties, Stone followed with 27.5% fastballs and 20.0% sinkers. While it was just one start to open the year, Stone did throw just five cutters among his 85 total pitches. In 2023, the pitch was Stone’s third-most used option at 16.8%, but allowed a .422 xwOBA that only trailed his fastball for highest xwOBA allowed.

As for Imanaga, he struck out 9 in 6 innings against the very terrible Rockies (2-7) on April 1. Allowing just 2 hits and no walks in the outing, Imanaga helped the Cubs record a shutout in the 5-0 victory as the Rockies were lost against his four-seamer and splitter which were responsible for four strikeouts apiece. The splitter was responsible for an 80.0 Whiff% according to Imanaga’s stats on Baseball Savant, with 12 misses against 15 swings. While right-handed batters saw 22 splitters, with one single to three strikeouts, lefties saw just two splitters leading to one strikeout.

Left-handed batters primarily saw a four-seam fastball at 92.9 mph followed by a sweeper at 82.2 mph. The four-seamer, thrown 62.9% to lefties in Imanaga’s debut, finished with lefties 0-for-5 while the sweeper’s 28.6% usage led to a single in two at-bats. The fastball usage slips only to 59.6% for right-handed batters while the sweeper was not used and the splitter took over as the secondary pitch at 38.6% usage.


Really, I may have written all this for no reason.

Jack Harris has a nice story on Yamamoto’s adjustments since Spring Training and his start in South Korea.

And lastly, Walker Buehler:


First pitch is scheduled for 11:20 a.m. on SportsNet LA, but really who knows with Chicago weather.

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.