As evidence by the Cardinals three-game sweep of the Angels as well as their overall record thus far, one team in Los Angeles is likely in for a rough year. The same cannot be said for the other team in Los Angeles, as the Dodgers figure to factor in the pennant race all season long. Clayton Kershaw is spectacular, and was again last night. That means, of course, that he will not be pitching in this series against the Cardinals. The rest of the Dodgers club should still pose a formidable test for St. Louis, and the Cardinals should destroy the Dodgers.
The Dodgers have a bunch of familiar names which is hardly surprising given their $200+ million payroll. Chase Utley, who, for much of last year looked like he might be done re-signed with the Dodgers without a fixed starting role, but has played very well as the regular second baseman. The 37-year-old is likely to lead off and has an 11% walk rate with a .392 on-base percentage. Howie Kendrick, who might have been in line for playing time if Utley were playing poorly, has served in a utility role, seeing time at three of the four infield spots as well as left field. The 32-year-old's bat has done much this season with just one extra base hit (a double) in 89 plate appearances.
Adrian Gonzalez has presented an average bat so far this season, but the 34-year-old likely has a bit more in him left. WIth Andre Ethier sidelined, Carl Crawford has gotten a decent amount of playing time over the past few weeks, but not done much with it. Thus concludes the discussion of high-priced Dodgers veterans out in the field.
Late-bloomer Justin Turner has nailed down the Dodgers starting third base position. He is hitting a decent clip so far this season, but hasn't yet shown the power that saw him hit 16 homers in 439 plate appearances. He is likely better than he has shown so far, but at age-32, last year was probably the best we will see of Turner.
Yasmani Grandal is a solid-hitting catcher and his 122 wRC+ so far this season is fairly close to o his projections for the rest of the year. Joc Pederson had a fantastic start to his big league career last season but slowed in the second half. He is a three-true outcomes player who has succesfully lived up to that billing so far this season with six homers to go along with a 13% walk rate and a 33% strikeout rate. Kiké Hernandez and Trayce Thompson could also see some playing time, with the latter hitting much better after coming over in the trade that sent Todd Frazier to the White Sox.
The Dodgers best young player is Corey Seager, rated by some as the best prospect in baseball heading into the season. The 22-year-old bats left and throws right. He's hit well this year, and at shortstop he is among a very strong group of young players playing the position throughout the game. The Cardinals will need to challenge the Dodgers as the team has multiple players with high walk rates.
Ross Stripling takes the mound for the Dodgers tonight. Stripling has been roughly average this season in both strikeouts and walks. His 2.88 FIP is aided by giving up just one home run while his 3.88 ERA is hurt by an unlucky 63% left on base percentage. He had a no-hitter going in his first start, and he does not have overpowering stuff, likely settling in as a league-average or bit below starter. Stripling will face former college teammate Michael Wacha, who has 23 strikeouts against seven walks in his last three starts but he has been hurt by giving up four home runs in those games.
On Saturday, Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Dodgers. Kazmir, who signed a free agent deal with the Dodgers after pitching last season for the A's and Astros, has strikeout and walk numbers that look a lot like Wacha's, but he has had even worse trouble with homers giving up nine so far this season. The lefty should be a good bet to pitch better moving forward. The lineup should pose an interesting question. Kazmir does not have huge platoon splits, but Tommy Pham is still on his rehab assignment if the Cardinals want to call him up. The Cardinals will send Carlos Martinez out there. Martinez is getting extra rest after an illness sapped his strength. In 178.2 innings as a starter over the last calendar year, El Gallo has a 2.57 ERA (sixth in MLB behind Arrieta, Kershaw, deGrom, Garcia, and Greinke) along with a very good 2.97 FIP and 4.0 WAR.
On Sunday night's game, Alex Wood will go against the Cardinals. Wood is another Dodgers' pitcher with a poor left-on-base rate so his pitching line is not as bad as his 4.58 ERA would indicate. Wood has switched from the fourseam fastball to a twoseam fastball that might be contributing to an increased ground ball rate. Wood also throws a knuckle-curve and a change. Wood does have a bit more pronounced platoon splits than Kazmir so we might again be on Tommy Pham watch. Mike Leake will look to have another positive result after shutting down the Angels on Tuesday.
Friday's game starts at 9:10 PM CT and will air on Fox Sports Midwest as well as MLB Network for those out of market.
Saturday's game starts one hour earlier at 8:10 PM CT on Fox Sports Midwest, and for those out of market, MLB Network will pick up the game at 9 when the previous game has finished.
Sunday's game begins at 7:05 PM CT and will air nationally on ESPN.
Also of note for MLB.tv subscribers, Vin Scully will be calling Friday and Saturday night's game in Los Angeles in what will be his last Cardinals games unless the teams meet again in the playoffs. On another broadcasting note, Jim Edmonds will continue to partner with Dan McLaughlin for Fox Sports Midwest and the two have done a very good job with Edmonds bringing a lot of good insights to the broadcast.