Following Thursday night’s game, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have finished one-third of this shortened season with at least 12 wins and a percentage point tie for the lead if not an all out lead.
The Dodgers still have the greatest run differential in the major leagues, by nine runs over the Minnesota Twins. Games like Wednesday night’s 6-0 shutout of the Padres help this fact, and most of their loses have been of the one or two run variety.
Still, the offense has been hit or miss, pun intended. Reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger has yet to find his swing, after tinkering with how he swung last season. Max Muncy still looks lost at the plate, and when runners do get on base, they are back to their leaving running stranded ways of the 2017 and 2018.
We’ve touched on some reasons before why this may be. Mookie Betts is a perfect lead-off batter and Manager Dave Roberts has had him batting second often. Max Muncy has said that he is not batting lead-off, and he also was there often. And the lineup sorely missed the presence of Corey Seager.
Thursday night’s lineup, however, is back to the way it should be. Mookie is back at the top, with Seager right behind him. The Dodger shortstop had been sidelined with back issues for about a week, and just started doing baseball activities again on Monday. He will be the designated hitter, with Chris Taylor still filling in for him at shortstop.
The Dodgers will need all the pop they can get as they face Chris Paddack of their Padres. While the Dodgers got three runs off the hard throwing right hander last time they faced him in San Diego, that’s not a given every time they face him.
One small worry for Thursday’s game is that the Dodgers are essentially carrying one healthy catcher. Austin Barnes is starting, but Will Smith is still feeling the effects of his collision with a runner last week in San Diego. He is available as an emergency catcher, and will not start in Friday’s game either.
Starting pitcher Alex Wood threw a bullpen off the mound at Dodger Stadium on Thursday. He will throw another bullpen session on Saturday, and then a three inning simulated game on Tuesday. Roberts noted that Wood will need at least one more simulated start of approximately four innings and 60 pitches before returning to the starting rotation, so that would put his return around the end of August.
This almost certainly guarantees at least one more start for Tony Gonsolin, who was very good in his season debut on Wednesday. He went four and two-thirds innings, allowing three hits and striking out eight.
After the series with the Padres is over, the Dodgers will welcome the Los Angeles Angeles to Chavez Ravine. Probable pitching matchups will be Friday- Clayton Kershaw and Patrick Sandoval; Saturday, Walker Buehler and Andrew Heaney; and Sunday, Dustin May and Julio Teheran.