Dodgers @ Blue Jays April 28, 2024: Grove starts a bullpen game vs. Gausman

The Dodgers (18-11) kept up their recent success, with a relatively clean 4-2 victory over the Blue Jays (13-15) last night. They’ve now won six consecutive games, and will look to sweep Toronto today before heading to Arizona to face the Diamondbacks (12-16). Still plenty of season to go, but their recent run of form has them with a 4.5 game lead in the division over both the Padres (14-16) and the Giants (13-15). Michael Grove will be the “starter” on the mound today to eat a few innings to start a bullpen game. Kevin Gausman will start for the Jays, but the ace has struggled to get things going this season.

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10:37 A.M. Toronto
SS Betts RF Springer
DH Ohtani (L) DH Guerrero Jr.
1B Freeman (L) SS Bichette
LF Hern√°ndez, T. 1B Turner
3B Muncy (L) LF Schneider
RF Pages CF Varsho (L)
CF Outman (L) 3B Kiner-Falefa
2B Lux (L) C Kirk
C Barnes 2B Biggio (L)
P Grove (R) P Gausman (R)

The Jays’ Gausman is right-handed, so the Dodgers will run out their standard lineup against RHP, the only difference being Austin Barnes starting the series finale. Will Smith only had one hit last night after four in each of his last two starts, so naturally he’ll ride the pine today. He’s 18th in baseball in wRC+ at 156, as well as 18th in OPS at .924. He’s 14th in fWAR at 1.3 and is tied with William Contreras for second among catchers in that department just trailing Salvador Perez at 1.6. Smith has been excellent and is on pace for the best season of his career.

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Gausman (5.57 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 1.57 WHIP) took his third loss of the season in his last outing, giving up three unearned runs on seven hits and one walk with just two strikeouts over 6.2 innings. It wasn’t fantastic, but it was his longest start of the year and was the best he’s looked this season. The 33 year-old has now given up just one earned run over his last 11.2 innings, so he could be turning a corner. He’s normally one of the best pitchers in the sport, with top-ten Cy Young finishes in each of the last three seasons, including third place in 2023. He’s second in fWAR over the last three seasons with 15.8, trailing only Zack Wheeler (17.3), another bonafide ace. If he’s on his game he’ll be tough to beat.

Grove (6.00 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 1.33 WHIP) has served as a multi-inning reliever through the first month of the regular season. He hasn’t worked more than three innings in any of his nine relief appearances to date, so that’s about the best the team can expect today. People haven’t necessarily been happy about Grove’s performance this year and I don’t blame them, but I’m honestly quite enthused recently (or as pleased with a 6.00 ERA as anyone can be). Home runs plagued him over his first two years in the majors, with 18 allowed over 98.1 innings. It can change in a hurry, but he’s yet to allow one this season over 15 innings. He’s had some less than stellar outings this year, but has a 2.76 FIP, 3.69 xFIP, 3.40 xERA, and a 3.14 SIERA. All these performance predictors have their own nuances, but by all accounts he’s performed much better than his 6.00 ERA, and that should come down in time so long as he keeps pitching at this level. He allowed seven earned runs over his first two outings and three innings, but has put together 7.1 scoreless innings over his last five outings. That stretch includes just one hit and three walks allowed with 12 strikeouts. Not to say he’s been perfect, but he’s been fine overall and great recently.

Ryan Yarbrough would be likely to get the ball after Grove, although on three days rest it’s unlikely he goes more than a couple innings as well. He’s been great in his role, with a 3.52 ERA over eight outings and 23.0 innings. He’s fourth on the team in innings pitched, which gives you an idea of how the starting rotation has fared this year.

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Gus Varland will likely log some useful innings for the team over the next few days. It depends a bit on how today goes, but it’s likely to see him sometime in the Arizona series.

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The team has been solid against left-handed pitching lately, so they’ll put that to the test early next week.

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First pitch is at 10:37 a.m. PT on SNLA and MLB Network.

About Allan Yamashige

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Just a guy living in Southern California, having a good time writing about baseball. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about it rules. Thanks for reading!