More Thoughts Ahead of Wednesday’s Game 5 Decider

(Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

The 2019 Dodgers, the team that broke the all-time franchise record for most wins during a regular season, find themselves in a do-or-die situation as they prepare for the Game 5 NLDS decider against the Nationals on Wednesday.

Of course, it was not supposed to work out this way, at least in the eyes of those close to the Boys in Blue. However, upon breaking down the entire NLDS on paper, the fact that the series has run its full course is not surprising at all.

The Nationals secured their two wins behind their two workhorse arms, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer.  The Dodgers cruised to victory with their two best starters on the mound, Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Both teams are known for their prolific offenses, but both squads have seemingly left fans in suspense as to when their schizophrenic bats might show up.

One interesting fact is that while the Dodgers had the best home record of any team in the National League, Washington had the best road record. Another thing to keep in mind is that Los Angeles has not lost back-to-back games since September 6-7 in a three-game series against the Giants. Yet, in the same breath, of the 24 games the Dodgers played in the month of September, just five of them were against teams with winning records.

In Monday’s Game 4, not only did the Dodgers load up with a cast of rookies against Scherzer, but skipper Dave Roberts placed all of them grouped together in the lineup. The batting order consisted of Matt Beaty hitting sixth, Gavin Lux in the seven-hole, Will Smith batting eighth, then the pitchers spot. Beaty has landed a few base hits in his limited time at the plate, but Smith and Lux appear to be truly outclassed against quality pitching.

Lux has a long ball to his credit which came against the HR-prone Hunter Strickland in Game 1, but hasn’t done much else, especially when either Scherzer or Strasburg are on the hill. Smith has gone just 1-for-9 with a single during the series.

When looking at other options at the keystone, Chris Taylor hasn’t fared much better. he punched out in a critical bases loaded spot against Scherzer on Monday night, and like Smith, has gone just 1-for-9 during the NLDS with a single.

Against Strasburg on Wednesday, Roberts could elect moving Max Muncy back to second while giving Beaty the start at first, opening up the possibility of Enrique Hernandez slotting in somewhere in the lineup, even against a righty starter.

And, speaking of slumps—as everyone is much aware—A.J. Pollock is mired in a severe sag, having gone just 1-for-12 during the NLDS with 10 punchouts.

As a team, the Dodgers have hit just .228 during the NLDS, but of all the squads still standing, they rank second in runs scored, chiefly in thanks to a postseason-high seven long balls. Collectively, the Nationals have hit .219 so far in the NLDS.

Bullpen-wise, the Los Angeles relief crew has given up eight earned runs so far compared to the Nationals’ 14.

Finally, Strasburg, who will be taking the mound for Washington on Wednesday, has a career 0-3 regular-season record at Dodger Stadium over four starts. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be surprising if all hands are on deck in the Nats’ bullpen in Game 5, including Scherzer.

In 26 lifetime starts at home, Buehler has a 10-4 record with a 2.60 ERA and 200 strikeouts over 169-1/3 innings of work.

Both of Buehler’s career complete games have come at Dodger Stadium.


56 thoughts on “More Thoughts Ahead of Wednesday’s Game 5 Decider

  1. Tomorrow would be a great time for Buehler to expand on his playoff reputation. He may wind up doing something in his first two or three years that CK hasn’t been able to do for his entire career, be known as a big-time playoff pitcher.
    Our hitters’ numbers against Strasburg are absolutely horrible, with the exception of JT. I was thinking that maybe we should move Max to second and start Freese at first but his lifetime numbers against Strasburg are as bad as everyone else’s. That said, I think I’d still take my chances with Freese.

  2. Do or die. It is time to play like the best team in the NL. Me, I run my vets out there despite their numbers against Strasburg. And if memory serves Dennis, Strasburg might be 0-3 in the regular season, but he beat them in game 2 in LA. Freese at 1st, Muncy at 2nd, Seager at SS, Turner at 3rd, Kike in left, Belli in center, Pederson in right, and Martin behind the plate. That’s the lineup I go with. Vets less likely to be as jumpy and swinging at pitches they have no chance hitting. It will be all hands on deck in the pen.

    1. OK Bear, understand your thoughts on starting vets and certainly understand someone instead of Pollock. Any particular reason you went with Kike over CT3? Better previous results against Strasburg?

      1. That’s what we’re saving Pollock for. Just like Strasburg is way overdue for a bad start (or at least a mediocre one), AJ is due for a big hit.
        Only problem is, things don’t always come when they’re due.

  3. Right now Pollock is due-due! I don’t know about Kike in left. I like the way Beaty swung the bat against Scherzer and I’d go with him against Strasburg. Both Kike and CT3 are helpless against that down and away slider so can’t see either doing any damage against Strasburg. But if we’re gonna beat him the big boys have to step up. Stars need to be stars on Wednesday!

  4. Kike has had some big moments with the game on the line. Taylor is not really hitting the ball well so far. Strasburg is going to be pretty hard to hit anyway, I just want more experience in that lineup so they can take the game to the Nats instead of it being the other way around. Beaty has been ok, but in a deciding game, I want some defense out there in left and Beaty’s glove, though adequate, is not just the kind of defense I want out there in a must win game.

  5. Dennis, you say Lux is outclassed but the numbers so far say Seager and Bellinger are worse. I understand the strategy of playing veterans but my gut tells me to start the left handed lineup against the right handed pitcher. I think if we are disciplined Strasburg could be gone by the 6th. He threw 92 pitches his last start of the season and 85 on the 4th. Don’t chase the change up out of the strike zone and at bats will be lengthened.

    1. Maybe what I was indirectly trying to imply was that Beaty could be the better choice over Lux. Slide Muncy to second and have Beaty play first base. In that case, they would need to decide between Pollock, Enrique or Taylor in LF. I believe that Verdugo’s solid contact skills would be huge right about now,

      1. I get that Dennis. But I would counter that the right side infield defense is weakened with that move. Lux is better at second and Muncy has improved at first. I use the left handed lineup. They are all hitters. But I have a serious pregame discussion with them:

        My take is – keep it simple against Strasburg. The pitch you guys are waving at is that palm ball change that starts center cut and dives arm side. 1. All balls break the direction they are spinning. Pick up the spin early. It’s your home field. You are familiar with the lighting. See the damn ball. 2. Strasburg is too good to throw a fastball center cut after strike one. Be smart up there. Swing out of your shoes on strike one. I’ll give you that. On strike 2, keep your shoes on and try to get ahead in the count. After strike 2, this guy is going to try to strike you out by getting you to chase something. If with 2 strikes you see a ball spinning forward coming down the middle…. lay off it. Heck, even if you don’t see the spin don’t trust a ball down the middle. Be prepared to battle it if necessary, but, don’t chase it. And what if he tries to catch the inside corner with it? Hang in there. He’s not gonna hit you with two strikes. If it’s a fastball, take it for the team. I might recommend the size Triple XL elbow pad Bonds used to wear. Just stick that over the inside black.

        Strasburg beat us by getting us to swing at HIS pitches.

        The point is, have a clue up there. Don’t let this dude outsmart you by chasing HIS pitch. As Charlie Lau used to say – “f*** him! He’s not your friend”.

  6. Worst post season in Dodger history does not fall on Pollock yet. That distinction is Gil Hodges who went 0-21 in a world Series against the Yankees. Dodgers could have really used his bat.

    1. Ex-Dodger Gil Hodges went on to manage the Mets.
      The Mets have an opening at the manager’s position.
      I hear AJ has called BVW and asked for an interview.

      1. Yes, Gil went on and managed the Miracle Mets, but I doubt AJ is ready to hang em up yet.

  7. Maddon front runner for Angels job, exe Dodger Machado wants Padres to consider Buck Showalter.

  8. Question gang: Honest opinions here. Just how much hot water and feedback is the Dodger brain trust and ownership going to get if tomorrow they are knocked out by DC? Been mulling that question and I really feel Friedman is going to get a lot of wrath from the fan base if they do not advance to the NLCS. His failure to acquire a really good reliever is not going to go down well. Even though the pen has been the best in the NL most of the second half, I think the fans are not going to just say it was a great season and go get em next year. LA is not Brooklyn.

    1. Honestly, people like us who understand the game will be much more forgiving, as we know how many different factors are in play during the postseason. It’s the more uneducated and less-wise folks who won’t be so understanding. Like the people Jeff D. and I were talking about yesterday—the folks who would have sent Daez packing years ago and DFA’d Kenley at the All-Star break. Believe it or not, there are some very crazy Dodger fans out there. 🙂

      1. By “the more uneducated and less-wise folks” I assume you’re referring to guys like Scoop and Bear, correct? I don’t know why you even let those guys comment here. 🙂
        All kidding aside, I’d like to take a second to thank you for this blog Dennis. We (your readers) have our differences of opinion, but everyone on here treats everyone else with respect, no matter how their opinions might differ on any particular subject. Your blog is a vote for civility. I just wish the world in general could follow this example.
        Here’s hoping we have something to celebrate tomorrow night, but if not, we can celebrate the Dodger family you’ve created here at TBPC.

      2. Hey Jeff, remember that Andy and I write every day throughout the winter, so there’s really no need for the potential end-of-season sentiments. While I certainly do appreciate your voice of civility, maybe you can save your good-heartedness for one of those cold days in December when we’re trying to forecast the prospective contributions from somebody like Dylan Floro or JT Chargois. 🙂 In all seriousness, though, thanks so much for your readership—you’re definitely one of the main reasons we decide to come back and post something every day.

      3. First of all, when I said “thank you Dennis” I meant the collective “you” as I’m well aware of how important Andy is to this blog. Thank you Andy!
        Secondly, winter is when I appreciate you most because we don’t have the everyday ballgames to occupy our time.

    2. If we get eliminated tomorrow the “Dodger Brain Trust” will get raked over the coals. There will be screams that AF didn’t do this and AF didn’t do that and Doc is a horrible manager and the bullpen should be completely dumped and re-worked and Belli and Seager should be traded………………………………and sometime within the next month or so Kasten will sign Friedman to a new 5 year contract.

  9. Wonderful bear we agree on the lineup and as Jeff said how about ct3 but Kike has more upside for a more exciting game but I would go with either.
    Pollock is due??????Due to be left off of the NLDS roster. No Cory&Belly are due.
    I’m a old guy having seen the Dodgers growing up in Bklyn. Dodgers are going to kick some serious ass tomorrow GO LA

    1. Be realistic Larry. Listen to your head and not your heart. If they best the Nats tomorrow and beating Strasburg is not going to be that easy, no way Pollock gets left off the roster. Who are you going to replace him with? They have no other RH power bats on the roster. Verdugo is out until next year. Rio’s is a lefty and Garlick was not called up in September, so the option to leave AJ off of the roster is not there. Oh, they could put Barnes on there. Multi-position player. No pop, and not much of anything else. And if you think that’s bad. wait until next year when the new roster limits are in place. 26 player roster, 13 pitcher limit. Only 28 on the roster in September. I missed a couple of players they could replace Pollock with, but tell me seriously, you want Negron or Gyorko? Or maybe White, who has not seen action since late July. Lux would not have made the roster next year because it is doubtful he would have gotten the call up with the roster limits. I agree Jeff, AF will most likely get an extension soon after the season ends. The fan base will go nuts on twitter and most of the blogs calling for Roberts and Friedman’s heads. They will want them to re-sign Ryu and Hill no matter what the cost. Trade Pollock and anyone else they consider unfit to wear the blue. I believe if anything, the rotation next year gets a lot younger with Buehler, May and Gonsolin all becoming part of the 5 man and Urias moving out of the pen permanently. The may also switch to a 6 man rotation to save Kersh in the last 2 years of his deal and have it be Maeda, Kersh, May, Gonsolin, Buehler and Urias.

      1. I just have a hard time seeing them go to a six-man rotation for the entire season Bear. CK would probably be the guy to complain the loudest. Next year’s rotation mix should be very interesting. On the one hand, I somehow think they’re going to sign either Ryu or Hill. On the other hand, as you point out, they have Urias, May and Gonsolin all waiting in the wings. I would be mildly surprised to see all three of those guys join the rotation next year. Maybe one, maybe two, with the other or others spending the year in the bullpen and spot starting (The Stripling Proviso). I think Urias has to be the first one given a shot at starting next year or they may find he’s not very happy. Maybe May would be next in line and that would leave Gonsolin in the bullpen because of his past experience there. I don’t see any way that Ross Stripling is with the Dodgers next year. Really nice guy. I’ll miss him.

      2. Thinking out of the box there Jeff. I know CK would squawk, but I think it would be very good for him. But of course that’s just me.

      3. I’ve been pimping a 6 man rotation for a long time. We are in effect already using it. In a 5 man starters get over 30 starts. This year 49 pitchers had 31 or more starts. None of them were Dodgers. Buehler was our workhorse with 30 starts and 180 innings. I’ve made the argument that maybe starters could go more innings per start if they had 5 days rest but the Dodgers counter that with 3rd time through the order stats and periodic 10 days off for the starters. 11 pitchers made starts for the Dodgers this year. Don’t need a 6 man rotation when you do what the Dodgers do.

      4. They use the 10 day IL better than any team in the majors. Rays shocked the Stros and beat Verlander…

  10. It’s not AF’s or Roberts fault that Kershaw, Jansen, Seager and Bellinger are all star’s during the regular season and busts during the post season. Players win and lose games. There is plenty of talent. For whatever reason they have not performed any where near their norms in October. Turner has been the only consistent stud in the post season year in and year out. But let’s not count the boys in blue out just yet. All will be forgotten if our stars go on a tear and get a WS title.

      1. Kenta has been more effective out of the pen and less susceptible to the long ball. I think part of Baez’s problem the last couple of outings is rust. He had not been used much the last week of the year. To tell the truth, I thought Sadler would make the post season roster, but they picked the Red Missile instead.

      2. Agree on Baez. Rust is certainly part of the problem.
        With Maeda doing so nicely out of the bullpen, he may be making the case to become next year’s closer if Kenley doesn’t regain his old form. Depending on whether Ryu and/or Hill come back plus Urias/May/Gonsolin knocking on the rotation door there could be too many guys for too few positions as starters. Although I very seriously doubt AF would do it, Maeda is also making himself into a valuable trade chip and with a team-friendly contract. I think his versatility makes him much more likely to stay, but as I said yesterday, Stripling is highly unlikely to be back, IMO.

      3. Remember Jefe, Kenley is under contract for 2 more years with 32 million still on the books. He has an opt out, but there is no way he does that. He has not been the dominant closer he once was and every team out there knows that. Chapman has an opt out in his deal with the Yankees as does Strasburg with the Nats.

      4. I realize that Kenley has two years left on his contract and there is no possible way he opts out, but tell me which MLB regulation says you have to make the guy who earns the most money your closer. They’ll use the guy who they feel will do the best job. Hopefully that’s Kenley but if it happens to be Kenta, Kenley will have to live with it while collecting his large pay check.

  11. I’m not prepared to speculate on a terrible case scenario. I’ll just say that I’ve grown quite used to disappointment at the end of baseball season. I’ll also say I don’t believe it will happen on Wednesday.

      1. I believe it. I take the Dodgers and the over. I think we win, and Jansen gets the Save.

        That may sound disingenuous, but I’ve spent the afternoon exercising my secret powers (noetics) to influence Bellinger, Seager, Pederson, Muncy and Lux. Mostly Bellinger…. don’t want to spread my powers too thin. I see these guys finally laying off pitches out of the strike zone. We can hit strikes. And we will.

      2. He’ll be sitting in Dennis Gilbert’s seat behind the plate tomorrow, giving Strasburg the evil eye.

      3. Speaking of Vegas, the commish has threatened Oakland that it is possible the A’s, ala the Raiders could end up relocating there. All this because of a hold up on the new stadium.

      4. I welcome Vlad’s input.

        Vegas A’s. Sure. Why not? Oakland doesn’t seem to do it right. I think Vegas could sell 30,000 tickets a night easy.

      5. I think Tampa is worse off than the A’s. They should probably be given first crack at Vegas, although I realize geography plays a role in this as well.

      6. Tampa should be given preference on that one because their stadium is probably the worst in baseball. Miami has a nice ballpark. Problem is, will Montreal build a park for whomever might go there. Neither Tampa nor Miami ownership has the money to build their own ballpark.

  12. If we get eliminated tomorrow the real fans will damn well that yes the players did not execute when needed, ummm as always in the post season. But it will be on AF for the failure to build a true pen. I will give him credit for building most all of the other other positions solidly. But the pen has been a giant butt hole for years. In the end it is on the players to actually hit the damn ball, but you can’t ignore a gaping wound forever.
    I thought to myself, it was a very small thought by the way, on Sunday that as usual the bat’s will take a game off after a great beat down. Lather rinse repeat.
    BTW. I love this new blog.

  13. Sorry for all of the typos. On my phone watching Verlander get punched.
    No edit button before posting?

    1. Welcome Harry and the Rays forced a game 5. Goes to show that no pitcher, not even a guy as great as Verlander is invincible.

  14. Watching Verlander tonight made me realize how many times Kersh went out there and pitched on short rest and how that has contributed to his post season troubles

  15. Been perusing the series stat sheets at espn over a cup of coffee trying to figure out what I would do tonight.

    It seems obvious to me that Kershaw is no post season Bumgarner. It’s also pretty clear that Kelly and Pollock are struggling. Urias, Stripling and Baez all have ERA’s north of Fairbanks. Jansen has been unhittable, for 1 inning. What do I do?

    I start Beaty over Pollock. I start Lux. Muncy, Turner, Bellinger and Seager all stay in there. for the entire game. I hope like Bob that Buehler can hold them for 7 but if necessary i will remove him early. I look closely at the odds the rest of the way, I listen to Geren and I listen to my gut. A lot of ifs to entertain but I think I would just calmly go one out at a time after Buehler. I maybe let Kelly pitch to one or two, like Rendon or Turner, but if he can’t find his spots right away he’s gone. Kolorek for Soto. Urias, Maeda and Jansen can each throw 12-15 pitches, use them between 7-9. Baez? Not sure. May? Yes. Kershaw? Maybe he closes. A lot depends on how the Nationals lineup rolls over 7-9.

    Actually what I am also looking for is an early exit of Strasburg. Don’t chase his pitches. I believe we can hit what he throws in the strike zone. We go out of it and we are playing into his hands. We’re the Dodgers. We lead the league in scoring. Let’s just do what we do and blow these guys out.

    That’s my strategy at 7:30 in the morning. It could change.

    1. Do not like batting those kids back to back to back followed by the pitcher. Sorry, looks like 4 automatic outs against a top notch arm. Sit Pollock maybe, but other than one at bat, Lux has looked totally over matched.

  16. It will be interesting to see if Strasburg continues to go with more off speed than his fastball like he did in game 1. Hopefully he throws some spinners like Verlander did last night!

    1. If he doesn’t at least start the game by going with his off speed stuff the pitching coach should be fired. Numbers show the Dodgers hit fastballs far better than off speed pitches. Our best hope is that his off speed stuff isn’t as good tonight as it was the last time.

      1. Off speed spin forward, 4 seamers spin backward. SEE THE BALL! I can’t emphasize this enough. If you can’t see it soon enough to catch the heat on the barrel – go to a lighter bat!

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