The Dodgers just keep plugging along. Lose a starting pitcher? No problem! Lose another? No biggie! Injuries and other circumstances have had the Dodgers pushing their pitching staff to the brink. But the offense has got their pitchers’ backs, scoring enough to keep them in games everyday. They are a rather impressive 15-5 through their last 20 games, even with all the wrenches the baseball gods keep throwing their way. It’s a tight rope act right now and so far, the Dodgers have yet to fall.
Friday the Boys in Blue return to Chavez Ravine to test that luck against a hot Atlanta Braves team. The young Braves are currently tied for first in the NL East, with a record of 36-26. Lead by Freddie Freeman and second baseman Ozzie Albies, the offense looks to do some damage in LA. Albies has 14 homers and Freeman has 11. Freeman is second to Kemp in batting average in the NL with a slash line of .338/.432/.561/.993, including 18 doubles and 39 walks. Nick Markakis is also having himself quite a year—a .328 batting average, 18 doubles and eight homers. Speedy Ender Inciarte has 18 stolen bases.
The series opener will feature the matchup we all imagined last year—Matt Kemp against Brandon McCarthy. Now of course, those two players have traded teams and Matt Kemp is among the hottest hitters in the majors. I’m sure Atlanta is just as surprised as Dodger fans to see Kemp batting .349, first in the NL. Kemp has fared well against McCarthy in his career, batting .438 against him in 16 at bats. Yasiel Puig also has had success against his former teammate, batting .429 with a home run.
McCarthy, for his part, is having a decent year. He’s 5-2, with a 4.83 ERA and 52 strikeouts. He has so far managed to keep himself relatively healthy and out of the yips. He has bad memories of the last time he was on the mound at Dodger Stadium, giving up a homer to George Springer in Game 2 of the World Series. On the mound for the Dodgers will be Walker Buehler, coming off a no decision in Colorado where he allowed four runs in his five inning outing. He has a 1.44 ERA at home through four starts.
Saturday will see Anibal Sanchez squaring off against Alex Wood. Sanchez is coming off his best start of the season, when only allowed two hits and two unearned runs in seven innings against the Washington Nationals. He is 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA. Logan Forsythe hits him very well against Sanchez, having a .714 BA against him with a homer and four RBI. Conversely, Wood is coming off one of his worst starts this year, when he got shelled in Colorado. He hasn’t been quite right since he stole that base, allowing 11 earned runs in his last 7-1/3 innings. Both Markakis and Freeman have hit him well, along with Tyler Flowers.
The starter for the Braves on Sunday has yet to be announced. Ross Stripling, the highlight of the pitching staff this year, will take the mound for the Dodgers. Stripling has only allowed four runs over his last seven outings.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that this series will also see the return of fan favorite Charlie Culberson. Charlie will always be beloved in L.A. for his extra inning, division winning walk-off homer in 2016 and his home run in the World Series. He has two walk-off homers so far this year in Atlanta. In fact, he has only hit eight homers in his whole career, and half of the them are of the walk-off variety.
This series will be a good test for the Dodgers. It is fortunate that they will have their best (healthy, non injured) pitchers lined up for this series because the bullpen is exhausted after back to back games of going eight-plus innings in Pittsburgh. As long as the bats of Kemp, Joc Pederson and others stay hot, the Dodgers will add to their streak of not losing a series.