The Dodgers are fresh off their third series win in a row and are 8-2 over their last 10 games. After sweeping the Nationals and taking both series from the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres, L.A. is ready to welcome the Philadelphia Phillies to Chavez Ravine.
We all remember last year, when the Dodgers mounted the epic comeback with back-to-back-to-back homers in the ninth against the Phillies, ultimately winning the game on an infield dribbler by Adrian Gonzalez with runners on first and second that allowed the winning run to score. This is a different team the Dodgers will be facing, one that is enjoying their turn around and is 1/2-game out of first place in the NL East, with a record of 29-21.
Gabe Kapler, former Dodgers’ scouting director, has helped turn around the once lowly team. Meghan Montemurro quoted Jake Arrieta speaking about Kapler, new to the Phillies this season, in her article from The Athletic:
“Gabe’s approach is one that guys are buying into, and you have to. He’s always positive. He has a ton of energy and to have that from your manager when you’re together 250-plus days a year, that’s a breath of fresh air”.
He was booed by his home crowd during Opening Day introductions, arriving for the first game in Philly with a 1-4 record. Things got a little better, with the Phillies going 15-8 the rest of April.
The Phillies offense is lead by centerfielder Odubel Herrera, with a slash line of .331/.396/.519/.915 and seven homers. He is in a bit of a slump currently, only having five hits in his last 25 at-bats. Rhys Hoskins, the phenom called up last year, is having a sophomore slump of sorts, batting .182 in his last 30 games. Catcher Jorge Alfaro leads the NL in caught stealing with 10.
Memorial Day sees a matchup of Vince Velasquez against Brock Stewart. Velasquez, is 4-5 with a 4.18 ERA, but has been 3-1 in May thanks to using his slider more often over his changeup. Six of the Dodgers have never faced the righty. Yasmani Grandal has homered off of him twice, and Chase Utley and Justin Turner each have one off him as well. Stewart will be making his second start of the season, after his four inning outing against the Rockies last Tuesday.
Tuesday’s game will feature Arrieta and Kenta Maeda. Arrieta signed with the Phillies late in spring training and is 4-2 with a 2.45 ERA. Only Yasiel Puig has had success against him, going .400 in five at-bats. Maeda, who has given up only four hits in his last 14 2/3 innings, has a 3-0 record against the Phils.
On Wednesday, Zach Eflin will go against Ross Stripling. Eflin has had only four starts this season, and hasn’t pitched past the fifth in his last two outings. Cody Bellinger, Grandal, Matt Kemp and Utley have all homered off of him. Stripling is looking to continue his dominance in the fill-in role, and add to his current total of 50 strikeouts on the season.
Thursday looks to be the premier matchup of the series. The Phillies will send their ace Aaron Nola to the mound, and the Dodgers will see the return of their ace Clayton Kershaw from the DL. Nola is 6-2, with a 2.27 ERA and 67 strikeouts. He flirted with a no-hitter in his last start against the Toronto Blue Jays, striking out 10. Kershaw returns after having bicep tendinitis. It will be interesting to see if his velocity returns, and what other adjustments he has made during his rehab.
Chris Taylor is finally starting to heat up, with a .313 BA and two homers over his last seven games. Homers overall are up for the Dodgers, with the team having 14 in their last eight games. The Phillies have had issues with their bullpen, especially at closer. Could the first walk-off of the year be coming? Maybe if we’re lucky we can see more Absolute Madness.