The Dodgers, meanwhile, come into this series with 103 wins on the season but face the very real possibility of having to play in the perilous NL Wild Card play-in game. Los Angeles is 2 games back of the San Francisco Giants with 3 games to play, and will likely be pushing to avoid that one-game scenario that could end their season prematurely.
The defending World Series champs have largely performed up to expectations this year, but San Francisco surprising everyone with one of the best seasons in that franchise’s long history threw a wrench in the Dodgers’ plans.
Despite disappointing years from Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger this year, LA’s offense has continued to hum along due to their very good depth.
It’s not that Betts has been bad — he’s slashed .268/.371/.497 with 23 home runs this year — but he’s not quite been the MVP-caliber superstar this year that he’s been in years past. Bellinger, meanwhile, makes Christian Yelich’s struggles seem mild. He’s legitimately been below replacement level this year, hitting just .162/.238/.301 this year.
Luckily for them, they still have Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Will Smith, Corey Seager, A.J. Pollock, and Trea Turner, meaning they’re still a relentless baseball-killing machine.
Muncy leads the team with 36 home runs while proving to be an annoying opponent to face in an at-bat with 82 walks in 141 games. Turner is hitting .278/.363/.469 with 26 home runs and 22 doubles this year after using the Brewers in his negotiations with the Dodgers last winter. Smith has turned into one of the better offensive catchers in baseball and Pollock is one of the guys who has feasted as other teams worry about the bigger names in the lineup. He’s hitting .302/.360/.540 with 20 home runs and 27 doubles.
The Probable Pitchers
Friday, 9:10 p.m. CDT - Eric Lauer vs. Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw has evolved his style as he’s gotten older and he’s lost a few ticks on his fastball — averaging just 91 mph this year — but he’s still an elite starting pitcher at age 33. While he now throws his slider more often than his fastball — 47% of the time compared to 37% for his fastball — he’s still missing plenty of bats, ranking in the 87th percentile in the majors while ranking in the top 10% in chase rate. He’s racked up 143 strikeouts despite only throwing 120 innings in 21 starts so far this year and still carries a WHIP below 1.
Saturday, 8:10 p.m. CDT - Corbin Burnes vs. Julio Urias
Urias is another lefty who largely features two pitches — a 94mph fastball he throws 48% of the time and an 81 mph curve he throws 34% of the time. Like Kershaw, he’s excelled at getting opponents to chase, with a chase rate just outside the top 10% in the league while simultaneously allowing very few walks. If wins were still a factor in the Cy Young race, Urias likely would be getting more support for the award — he has a chance at a 20-win season this weekend. He’s carrying an ERA of 3.01 and has struck out 188 over 179.1 innings so far this year.
Sunday, 2:10 p.m. CDT - TBD vs. TBD
This will likely be a bullpen day for both teams as they try to get into the playoffs healthy, and the Dodgers will likely save Max Scherzer for the NL play-in game against St. Louis and Adam Wainwright.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Statcast