The Diamondbacks are quite familiar with the Dodgers. Everyone knows the history, everyone knows about Y-*siel Pu*g and urinating in our pool. The casual dragging us around they’ve engaged in for the last... eleven years? The LA Times called it a one-sided rivalry, while simultaneously announcing that the pool awaited. I don’t know. That doesn’t seem one sided to me.
The Diamondbacks went into the final series between these two teams for the chance to win the season series for the first time since 2018. They were swept. Convincingly. But the Diamondbacks weren’t the only team that saw that happen, as the Dodgers went 24-5 in that month. They cooled off after that, only going 16-12 in the month of September.
Possibly the biggest advantage that the Dodgers have in these first two games is their record at home. They have an incredible .654 winning percentage at home this season, having gone 53-28. That’s thirty points or so better than their already healthy .580 winning percentage at home. The Diamondbacks, for contrast, are only .506 on the road during the regular season. For this reason alone, the first half of the series is going to be tough.
The second reason is that the Diamondbacks will face the Dodgers only two true starting pitchers in these games. Clayton Kershaw, a pitcher whose name not only can stand with but belongs with other names such as Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Sandy Koufax, will take the mound for Game 1. His body is not-so-slowly betraying him. In recent seasons its been his back. This season, his shoulder has put him on the IL for an extended amount of time. But when he’s on the mound, he is just as effective and dominating as ever. This season, he was only able to 24 games, but still managed to collect 3.7 bWAR. He had an ERA+ of 177 and a traditional ERA of 2.46. The biggest difference in his game is that he hasn’t pitched past six innings since June 20th, and has only pitched into the sixth twice in that same time frame.
The rookie Bobby Miller will take the mound in Game 2. He’s put together a good debut season with an ERA+ of 117 and a traditional ERA of 3.76. That lines up well with his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 3.51. He’s faced the Diamondbacks twice this season. In the first game, he held them scoreless over six innings of four hit ball, but also walked four. Arizona adjusted in their second game, tagging him for four runs in six innings, seven hits, two walks, and just four strike outs. They’ll be looking to see if the change in approach they made for that second game is enough for a third round.
For the Diamondbacks, Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen will be taking the mound in Game 1 and 2 respectively. To say that this is the best case scenario for the Diamondbacks is an understatement. They avoided having to use Kelly by wrapping up the Wild Card in just two games, meaning that he will actually be on extra rest coming into this series. Also by wrapping up the series in two, it means that Gallen is pitching on normal rest.
We’ll see if the advantage goes beyond just days of rest, however. Kelly has been hit hard both in his career and this season by the Dodgers. He has a 1.96 WHIP and an ERA of 3.98. Gallen has struggled even more, giving up 11 runs in just ten innings pitched. We will see if they rise to the moment.
As Makakilo will no doubt get into in the second NLDS preview, the pitching gets mighty thin after those two. Where they make up for that, and what has carried them all season, is their lineup that would be insane in a video game lineup. It’s anchored by two MVP candidates in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. They also have some guy named Just Dingers Martinez hitting DH for them. They also have ROTY also-ran James Outman (the Dodgers fans are going to make me regret that phrasing aren’t they?) with 112 OPS+.
How do they match up with the rest of the league? They are second in OPS+, regular OPS, SLG, OBP, walks, RBI, home runs, pretty much everything. The team they trail? The Atlanta Braves. Good luck Philly. Anyway, it’s pretty clear that the Kelly, Gallen, and the Diamondbacks are going to have their work cut out for them this series.
The Diamondbacks offense seems to have broken out of its slump while in Milwaukee. Timely hitting and a bit of a power surge propelled them to a couple of, some times stressful, wins against the Brewers and supported good performances by Diamondback pitchers in both matches. That will need to continue against a tough opponent in Kershaw and a pitcher that has shut them down once already this season
The Dodger’s pitching is their weak spot. They aren’t going to get length from either of their starters in the first two games, and if the Dbacks can get to either Kershaw or Miller early, that could have potential ramifications down the road. If the offense can put together timely hits as they did against the Brewers, and if Kelly and Gallen pitch like we know they are capable of, then they should have a chance to, at the very least, split in LA. If they don’t, that’s going to be a hard road to come back on. I think they do it, and probably pick up the win in game two.
Last series had the past history of Ryan Braun to add spice, but this one has so much more. It should be a good series, now it’s just time to play the games. Go Dbacks!