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.