When considering all the injuries the original starting rotation of the Dodgers has suffered so far this season, somebody unfamiliar with the team would probably think the club is doomed to defeat, not having a chance to hang around in its respective division race. However, in reality, the complete opposite may be true. In fact, with all the arms that are present in the current rotation mix, Los Angeles may have a better chance of success right now than they’ve had all year.
Depending on how staff ace Clayton Kershaw emerges on his return to the bump Thursday afternoon, the Dodgers could find themselves walking away with a series win over a tough Philadelphia club. The Los Angeles players should be confident with Kersh back on the hill as the offense hopes to maintain its momentum from its eight-run burst on Wednesday. Regardless of the bats, though, Kersh’s performance could very well be a bit of a precursor in determining the future landscape of the starting pitching crew.
Righty Ross Stripling has been lights-out since shifting into the rotation at the end of April. Undeniably, he’s been throwing better than any of the Dodgers’ starters, as he has put together an outstanding 1.68 ERA and 2.16 FIP on the season. Strip pitched so well on Wednesday evening that he even garnered a few gracious words from Philadelphia skipper Gabe Kapler.
“Sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opposition,” Kapler said after Wednesday’s game. “Striping was tremendous. He kept us off-balance all night. He mixed his pitches well. The cutter-slider thing was working really effectively. He mixed it with the curveball. He was good. He was on his game. We had trouble making the adjustment.”
And not to be overlooked is young right-hander Walker Buehler. If it wasn’t for Stripling’s recent string of success, the 23-year-old Buehler would probably be the talk of the town. Having now made seven starts on the year, the Kentucky native is sporting a 3-1 record with a 2.20 ERA and an even more impressive 2.14 FIP over 50-1/3 innings of work with 60 punchouts. There are rumblings of scaling back Buehler’s innings at some point during the year, but the way he’s throwing currently, it’s probably unwise to schedule any type of hiatus in the near future.
What’s even more exciting is the arrival of 22-year-old flamethrower Dennis Santana. Initially believed to be brought up for duties out of the bullpen, it’s becoming more likely that Santana could slot into the starting rotation sometime this weekend at Colorado. While a big league debut at Coors Field may seem a bit ominous to some, many believe that Santana gives the club a much better chance of winning over righty swing man Brock Stewart,
Furthermore, Alex Wood has shown several flashes of his 2017 self this season, and if he’s able to put together any type of consistency during the coming months, could conceivably elevate the Dodgers’ rotation into the top handful in baseball. That’s quite the feat considering that three-fifths of the Opening Day rotation is now on the shelf with injuries.
Even if Kenta Maeda‘s hip keeps him out of action for a longer period than expected, a starting five of Kersh, Wood, Buehler, Santana and Stripling does not sound shabby in the least. With the summer months and the trade deadlines quickly approaching, the Dodgers undoubtedly are in a position to put together a productive stretch and take control of the division, especially if the bullpen continues to make strides.