“My head was, we need to get off this two game snide (sic) and win a game against a good ball club at their place. My heart was saying ‘I wanna beat the crap out of this team and win two games.’”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts uttered these words on the Off the Air with Joe and Orel podcast. The Dodgers did not beat the tar out of the Houston Astros, but they did win two games, and that is most important.
The long-awaited series between the Dodgers and the Astros came with some surprises (the utter lack of offense on both sides), and some not-so-surprising things, such as tensions and close pitches.
Joe Kelly took it upon himself, some presume, to send a message to the Astros. He said he just didn’t have good control. Either way, the Astros didn’t like it, and came out of their dugout to complain. Dennis wrote about Kelly’s suspension in yesterday’s column.
I’ve written many a thing about the Astros, 2017, and the league’s handling of it, so I won’t dive deep here. But the hypocrisy of how the Astros players were dealt with, and how now anyone, especially the team that was wronged by them, is punished, is laughable. Players from around the league and all of sports have Kelly’s back in all of this, and MLB continues to show its mishandling of any big crisis.
But enough about that. Let’s focus on the real star of the Astros series—the Dodgers’ bullpen. The two starters for the series, Walker Buehler and Dustin May, both pitched relatively well but couldn’t go deep into games. It then fell to the bullpen to keep the Dodgers in the game, especially when the offense still isn’t quite firing on all cylinders.
And what a job they did. The bullpen was responsible for 15 innings of relief and only allowed the inherited runner in the 11th inning to score, against a team of really good hitters. And it wasn’t just one pitcher, 10 relief pitchers were used over those 15 innings, and all of them delivered.
Overall in six games, the Dodger bullpen has worked 31.2 innings, and has an ERA of 1.14, a WHIP of 0.87, and a 32-12 strikeout to walk ratio. One would suspect that they may not keep this up the whole season, but with the season being so short, who knows? A few might be whittled out as the teams have to drop players, but that will only leave the best options and a very, very good relief corps.
So now the Dodgers head into Arizona for a four game series against the Diamondbacks. They arrived early Thursday morning, but hopefully being in one place for four games will give them time to settle in, if only for a bit.
After all of those innings the bullpen just worked, it is a perfect night for Ross Stripling to take the mound. Strip went seven complete innings of one run ball in his debut last Friday and looks to do so again. He will face off against Robbie Ray. The DBacks lefty lost his first game where he only pitched 3.2 innings, giving up three earned runs on four hits with seven strikeouts.
Overall, the Diamondbacks are 2-4, having played the San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers. The Dodgers did just play against the DBacks in two exhibition games before the season officially started.
Friday’s starter for the Dodgers is still yet to be determined. If all goes well in a final bullpen session today, Clayton Kershaw may be able to join the starting rotation ranks. If he’s still dealing with back issues, it will probably be a pieced together outing by the bullpen. Kershaw would be sliding into Alex Wood’s slot while Wood is dealing with shoulder inflammation.
Whoever the Dodgers’ starter is on Friday, he will be going up against right hander Zac Gallen, who went four innings in his first outing, giving up one earned run with six strikeouts. Saturday’s matchup will be Julio Urías and right hander Luke Weaver, who gave up six earned runs in 3.1 innings in his first start.
Sunday’s starter for the Dodgers is also yet to be determined against Merrill Kelly for the DBacks. He seems to be their best pitcher in this early season, going 7.2 innings in his first start allowing only three hits and one earned run. The Dodgers will not see Madison Bumgarner this series.
The offense still has been slow to load after the first two games where they were very hot. I expect to see them finally get into the swing of things in Arizona, after the stress of facing Houston is over. Maybe they’ll become a bit more relaxed and more like the offensive juggernaut we all know.