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Series Preview #47: Diamondbacks @ Dodgers

Currently wishing they had just cancelled the first two weeks of the season like they threatened to do

A mural, depicting multiple Dodgers players. One is making a catch, another is getting ready to swing at a pitch, the third is celebrating while walking off the mound, while the fourth is looking straight ahead, as he would do in a head shot. In the middle of all four is a logo stating that Dodger Field is the home of the Dodgers Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

Buckle up, folks. The Diamondbacks are heading to LA for a five game series.

It wasn’t that long ago at all that these two teams faced off in Phoenix, and it did not go well for the Diamondbacks. They lost twice, both were shutouts. They pulled together a win in the final game of the season, but it took a walk-off, three run home run from Sergio Alcantara in the tenth inning to make it happen.

Since that series, the 2022 Dodgers became the fastest in franchise history to get to 100 wins, and only the ‘98 Yankees, the ‘01 Mariners, and the ‘54 Indians have done it faster since Jackie Robinson integrated the league (Thanks to Eric Stephen for doing the leg work on those facts for me) . On the other hand, the Diamondbacks lost three out of four to the Padres and are now 10 games below .500.

The only match up that has been confirmed by both teams is Kelly vs. Kershaw for game one of this series. The Diamondbacks have confirmed that Jameson and Davies will pitch in the double header but have not confirmed the order. On the other hand, the Dodgers have confirmed their starters for four and five but not the double header. What follows is my best guess as to how the pitching matchups will look, but please take them with a grain of salt.

Game 1 — 9/19, 7:10PM: Merrill Kelly (12-6, 1.10 WHIP, 135ERA+) vs. Clayton Kershaw (8-3,

We got to see this same matchup last Tuesday, and it did not go well for Merrill Kelly or the Diamondbacks. Kelly’s regression towards a more realistic home run rate continued. He followed up the three home runs he gave up to San Diego the start before with another two to the Dodgers. Making those home runs exponentially worse were the five walks he gave up in five innings. It’s a strong contender for his worst start of the season, probably only behind a two inning, eight run start he had against the, you guessed it, Dodgers back in May. Kelly has been in one of the least effective months he has had this season, with only his shut out of the Brewers in the middle the only decent start he has made. This is probably the toughest team he could face to snap that streak, but if anyone on this team can do it, it’s probably Kelly.

I’m not even sure how it’s possible, but I feel like Clayton Kershaw’s performance this season has been rather underrated. Sure, he has delt with several injuries that have limited him to only 101 IP to this point, a far cry from the 170+ he could be reliably counted on for in his peak. When he’s been able to make it on the field, though, he’s been absolutely nails. He’s brought his home runs back down to his career norms, after four seasons of him giving up more than one per game, on average. His walks are down, his strike outs are almost exactly his career norms, and his ERA+ is the best it’s been in a normal season since 2017. Father Time might be breaking down his body, but the ability and talent is still 100% there. I know it’s taboo to say on a Diamondbacks site, but from a baseball fan’s point of view, we are so spoiled having gotten to witness Randy Johnson and Clayton Kershaw consecutively.

Games 2 and 3 — 9/20, 12:10PM, 7:10PM:

ARI

Drey Jameson (1-0, 0.42 WHIP, 0.00ERA)

Zach Davies (2-4, 1.24 WHIP, 100 ERA+)

LAD

Michael Grove (0-0, 1.39 WHIP, 98 ERA+)

Tyler Anderson (15-3, 1.02 WHIP, 161 ERA+)

This could be a very bad day for the Diamondbacks. Drey Jameson will be making his second career start against one of the best offenses in baseball, while Zach Davies has not gotten through the sixth inning since June. If Jameson has a tough time with the Dodgers or just doesn’t go seven innings this time around, and Davies only throws 5+ innings as he normally does, the bullpen conceivably might have to cover seven or eight innings in one day. You might have noticed that the bullpen isn’t particularly good this season, so that’s kind of a scary thought.

Michael Grove is a rookie, making just his fifth career start. Despite that, it will be his second start against the Diamondbacks in the span of six days. He held the Diamondbacks to two hits in five innings last time out, but both of them were solo home runs. Not exactly an ideal ratio. He is still looking for his first career win.

I’m starting to sense a theme here, because Tyler Anderson also faced the Diamondbacks last time around and also pitched well against them. He went seven innings, five hits, and held the Diamondbacks scoreless. He has pitched 20 innings in three starts against the Diamondbacks so far and has only given up two runs.

Game 4 — 9/21, 7:10PM: Madison Bumgarner (6-15, 1.48 WHIP, 81 ERA+) vs. Dustin May (2-2, 1.00 WHIP, 123 ERA+)

Ryne Nelson has been nearly twice as valuable than Bumgarner by bWAR in just three starts.

Dustin May has been one of the many All-Star caliber pitchers the Dodgers have had on the IL this season. He made his return from Tommy John surgery towards the end of August, and he’s had mixed results since then. He’s had good starts against the Marlins (twice) and the Giants, but got knocked around in two other starts, both against the Padres. This will be his second start against the Diamondbacks, the last coming on September 10th, 2020, when he went one inning before getting hit by a line drive in the foot and had to come out of the game. Very little familiarity either way for this matchup.

Game 5 — 9/22, 7:10PM: Zac Gallen (12-3, 0.92 WHIP, 160 ERA+) vs. Julio Urias (17-7, 0.952 WHIP, 186 ERA+)

A battle of would be runners-up for the Cy Young award. Both have strong cases that just don’t quite match up against what Sandy Alcantara has done in Miami this season, especially after Alcantara threw his fifth complete game of the season, a Cy Young worthy feat in its own right these days.

Gallen seemed to be experiencing a bit of a hangover from his scoreless streak his last time out. The end results weren’t terrible by any stretch, only giving up two runs. It was only 5 13 innings though, and he just didn’t look sharp at all. Got the job done, but the bullpen imploded and the Diamondbacks ultimately lost 12-3. He’ll be looking for a bounce back start this time around against the Dodgers, a team who he has done well against. In eight games, he’s put up a 2.51 ERA against them, while holding them to a .189 batting average.

Urias is by far having the best season of his career. He leads the league in ERA/ERA+ and he’s three one hundredths behind Gallen for the league lead in WHIP. If anyone is going to give Alcantara a serious run for his money in the Cy Young, it’s going to be Urias. The Diamondbacks haven’t had the pleasure of facing him since April 27th, when he held the team to just a single, solo home run at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks did manage to win that one, adding two more runs off of the bullpen for a 3-1 win.

Conclusion

If you couldn’t tell, I’m not particularly optimistic for this series. I half-seriously asked on Twitter yesterday if a team had ever been swept in a five game series before. I think they’ll manage one, maaaaaybe two if everything goes there way. The main factor that might work in their favor is the fact the Dodgers have all but locked up everything they could possibly lock up, from the NL West to the best record in baseball. That might lead them to rest some of their regulars more than they typically would, making things easier on Diamondback pitching. If you’re only going to watch one game, I’d recommend Gallen vs. Urias. It’s should be a very fun look at two pitchers who should be battling for the title of best in the NL West for years to come.