Sort of like the Chicago Cubs, the Dodgers have taken to pacing themselves through the regular season. After underwhelming starts to the season, both now sit atop their respective divisions after going on a tear in June and the first half of July.
The Dodgers started the year sitting at 12-16 after April, then went .500 in May. Since then, though, they’re 27-13 and they just added the best offensive shortstop in baseball to cover for the loss of Corey Seager. Machado joins a group that already ranked 5th in the National League in runs scored and 1st in home runs.
A lot of that is due to the rejuvenated Matt Kemp, who’s hitting like it’s 2011 with a .310/.352/.522 line and 15 home runs and 18 doubles in 92 games. Max Muncy has also been the Jesus Aguilar of the West Coast, going from waiver claim to hitting .271/.409/.604 with 22 home runs in 72 games. Six other Dodgers are already in double digits in long balls: Cody Bellinger (17), Enrique Hernandez (16), Yasmani Grandal (13), Joc Pederson (13), Chris Taylor (11), and Yasiel Puig (11).
Their pitching, predictably, is also some of the best in the National League. They’re first in the NL in ERA, tied for first (with the Brewers) in quality starts, first in strikeouts, and fourth in batting average against (again, the Brewers are first). In the bullpen, Kenley Jansen is having a “down” season but still has a 2.33 ERA with 27 saves, striking out 48 batters in 46.1 innings. After trading for Machado, the next trade rumors focused on the Dodgers possibly trading for a dominant reliever, because it’s clearly a need.
Friday - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Rich Hill vs. Wade Miley
Saturday - 6:10 p.m. CDT
Clayton Kershaw vs. Chase Anderson
Sunday - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Alex Wood vs. Brent Suter
The Brewers will be facing three straight left-handers in this series, and while that would be a cause for celebration in years past, the team has actually struggled against southpaws this year, hitting a collective .224/.302/.378 against them (as opposed to .250/.319/.416 against righties).
Hill is still going at 38 years old, although his results have been mixed this year. He has a 4.55 ERA/4.92 FIP and an ERA+ of just 86 this year. While he’s still striking out a lot of batters -- 60 in 55.1 innings, or 9.8 per 9 -- he’s also surrendered 11 home runs and 56 hits in those innings. He missed much of May and June on the disabled list, and allowed 4 earned runs in 7 innings in San Diego in his last start.
Kershaw may have been temporarily passed by Max Scherzer for the Best Pitcher Alive title, but he’s still Clayton Freaking Kershaw. He’s allowed more than 3 runs just once this year -- back on April 20th when he gave up 2 runs in the first inning against Washington, then allowed just 2 more runs over the next 6. Like Hill, Kershaw also missed much of June but has come back strong, allowing just 5 total runs in 3 starts so far in July. Last year, Kershaw struck out 14 Brewers will allowing just 1 run (a solo home run) on 2 hits over 7 innings in his lone start against them.
Wood’s ERA is about a run higher than it was last year, but he’s largely been pitching the same -- just with different results. His strikeout rate has dipped a bit, but he’s also walked fewer batters. The difference is more hits are sneaking through with the .267 BABIP he allowed last year increasing to .297 this year -- much more in line with his career averages. Most of the run damage done against him this year has come in just a handful of starts: a 2 IP, 6 ER stinker at Coors Field; a 5 ER outing against the Padres on May 26; and a 3.2 IP, 7 ER outing in April against Oakland. He’s been very solid in the past month, though, putting up a 3.05 ERA despite in a .317 BABIP in his last 7 starts.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs