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Series Preview # 29: Diamondbacks @ Dodgers

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Taylor Widener returns to lead the Snakes into Chavez Ravine

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Washington Nationals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

**PITCHING MATCHUP INFO FOR TONIGHT EDITED, SEE BELOW**

I wanted to be able to write about how the Los Angeles Dodgers are “reeling” but in truth, while suffering some big setbacks which we’ll discuss in a moment, they are still in a strong position in the National League playoff picture with a good chance to get back to the world series.

They currently have the 2nd best record in the NL, 54-34, and sit one game back of the 1st place San Francisco Giants. If the season ended today they would be hosting the Wild Card game against the San Diego Padres. NL Detailed Standings Page. They were 16-11 in each of April and May, and 17-9 in June. They are 5-3 so far in July. However they just lost 3 straight games to the Miami Marlins before salvaging the last game of that series yesterday.

They’ve also lost their two highest paid front line starters. Trevor Bauer a (8-5, 2.59 ERA) is on his second week of administrative leave while the league and authorities investigate a sexual assault case which you’ve only not heard of if you’ve been in Antartica lately without cell reception. The team has canceled his bobble head day and removed all his merchandise from the team shop. It’s questionable he’ll pitch for the Dodgers again this year. Bauer is still owed roughly $80M on his contract through 2023.

Future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw (9-7, 3.39 ERA) just went on the IL with forearm inflammation. There is no timetable for his return. Kershaw is in the final year of his contract which pays him $31M this year. He will be a free agent next year.

Despite those two significant losses the Dodgers still have a formidable pitching staff. Surely they will be buyers at the trade deadline to shore up their rotation. But they still have Walker Buehler who we’ll see in this series and Julio Urias, who gave them 7 innings yesterday ahead of what will be a bullpen game tonight. David Price and Tony Gonsolin are quality options filling in right now as well. The Dodgers bullpen is lead by closer Kenley Jansen with 21 saves , 1.27 ERA. They have Blake Treinen and Jimmy Nelson dominating from the right side with high strikeout and low hit rates. Scott Alexander and Garrett Clevinger have microscopic ERA from the left side and will be tough matchups for the D-backs left handed hitters. Dodgers Pitching Page Here

Shortstop Corey Seager is still on the IL with a broken hand but has resumed swinging a bat and should be back after the all star break. His spot has been filled in more than adequately by Gavin Lux. While the bat hasn’t quite shown up yet (89 OPS+), his glove work has been good. Seager is a free agent after this year and Lux could well become the mainstay at short for LA.

The D-backs will see Cody Bellinger for the first time this year. He is back from his second IL stint of the season. It’s been a mighty struggle for him when he’s been able to play, and his season long slump has continued lately. He’s 3 for his last 34 without an extra base hit.

Justin Turner (145 OPS+) and Max Muncy (162 OPS+) are having excellent seasons. Mookie Betts is only batting .248, but he’s getting on base and hitting for power so still managing a 124 OPS+ with +defense. Chris Taylor, (133 OPS+), Will Smith, (123 OPS+) and AJ Pollock (108 OPS+) fill out the deepest lineup in the NL. Oh, and some guy named Pujols is having a dead cat bounce, putting up a 108 OPS+ since joining LA. Dodgers hitting page here

The Diamondbacks just took 2 of 3 from Colorado, their first series victory since May 2nd, also against the Rockies. They were unable to complete the sweep however, dropping the final game of the series in ugly fashion. As has usually been the case sloppy unfocused play, bullpen meltdowns, and an offense that goes quiet for multiple innings sank them again. Eduardo Escobar has been hot of late and his bounceback season has not only earned him an All Star selection, but also has him firmly among the most desired trade deadline targets as well. He hasn’t been getting much support from the rest of the offense however as nobody else is hitting consistently over the last 6 games. Ketel Marte and Carson Kelly remain on the IL and will not return for this series.

Their 25-64 record is the worst in MLB, 4.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles and still firmly in control of the #1 pick of the 2022 draft. That is if the new CBA doesn’t institute a lottery system. #Dbackythingstohappen

At least their 3-4 record for July is an improvement. They are currently on pace for a 46-116 record and hopefully with some injured pitchers returning they will improve enough to stay clear of setting any all time records. Speaking of which

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Friday, July 9th, 7:10 P.M. @ Dodger Stadium

David Price , 27. 2 IP, 3.58 ERA, 3.75 FIP, will start this bullpen game for the Dodgers. It’s his 4th start of the year, the previous three all of the 1 to 2 inning variety. He’s worked primarily as a reliever, with 20 outings coming out of the pen. His last outing on July 4th he threw 42 pitches in relief, and could possibly throw 50 or so pitches tonight. He’s no longer the flame thrower he was in his Cy Young days, but still averages 93 on the sinker and four seamer and uses his changeup cutter combo liberally. He’s still capable of being very effective in short doses. The Dodgers and Boston Red Sox are have been splitting his $32M annual salary down the middle since 2020, $16M a piece. He is a free agent after 2022.

Taylor Widener makes his return from the IL for the D-backs. Successive groin injuries have limited him to just 5 starts, 24 innings. He has a 2.63 ERA but a 5.05 FIP. He made two minor league rehab starts and got knocked around in both, but Torey Lovullo insists his velocity and stuff numbers indicate he’s ready to return.

Saturday, July 10th 7:10 P.M. @ Dodger Stadium

Caleb Smith , 2-5, 3.45 ERA, 4.27 FIP makes his 9th start of the season. He is second on the team with 70.1 IP . After an excellent 6 start run in June, he surrendered 5 runs in 6 innings vs. the Giants in his last start. He’s got some really great numbers in the head to head matchup vs. the current Dodgers hitters however. Check it out. He’ll need to bring his very best for this game.

Walker Buehler ( 8-1, 2.59 ERA, 153 ERA+ in 108 IP) is having a Cy Young caliber season so far, but is being eclipsed by Jacob deGrom in that race. He’s dominated the D-backs in two starts this year going 2-0, allowing just 3 hits and 2 runs while striking out 18 in 14.1 innings of work. He gave up a hit in the first inning of the first of those two games and then took a no hitter into the 8th in the 2nd. He was touched up by the Marlins in his most recent outing though, giving up 4 runs, 3 earned in 5 innings of work. Insert “so there’s a chance” meme here.

Sunday, July 11th 1:10 P.M. @ Dodger Stadium

Merrill Kelly. 5-7, 4.60 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 103 IP has been the Diamondbacks most consistent starter this year. He’s pitched into the 6th inning of 14 of his 18 starts and overall has performed better than his ERA indicates. He faced LA on May 20th, going 7 innings, giving up 3 runs while striking out a career high 12. But he took the loss as the D-backs went down 3-2 in that game.

Tony Gonsolin 21 IP, 1-0, 2.11 ERA, 3.41 FIP. Gonsolin returned from the injured list on June 9th and has not allowed more than one run in any outing so far. The 27 year old right handed has a 2.51 career ERA, backed by a 3.09 FIP in 108 IP for the Dodgers. He throws a mid 90’s four seamer, has a devastating split, and a slider he can throw for strikes. Injuries and roster depth have limited his chances, but if he can remain healthy and be as effective as he’s been so far in his career the Dodgers already have a capable roster option to fill one of the two spots vacated by Bauer and Kershaw. The biggest issue is stamina. He’s only averaged 4.2 IP per start in his career so far.

There is an outside shot the D-backs can break through and take a series against the Dodgers. It starts tonight. They must take advantage of the bullpen game the Dodgers are employing. That hasn’t been easy in the past for Arizona. And they’ll have their two most effective starters going in games 2 & 3 of the series. The offense will be challenged to score runs against this pitching staff throughout the three games however.

Look for the D-backs to manage to steal one close game but most likely lose the other two handily.