The first time these two teams faced each other back in July the Los Angeles Dodgers were one of the best teams in the league and the Cardinals were... well they were doing alright. Not much has changed since then for the Dodgers — they are still one of, if not the, best teams in the league. They have clinched the National League West division title and with a record of 104-46 have nearly secured having the best record in MLB. The Cardinals have made some improvements and lead the NL Central by 7.5 games over the Brewers. There is not much at stake for the Dodgers, but the Cardinals are hoping to put some more distance between themselves and the Brewers and maybe with a sweep and some Brewers’ losses, wrap it up for good.
Andrew Heaney will make his fourteenth start of the season on Friday against the Cards. Though he has only pitched 61 innings, Heaney is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. He has a 2.66 ERA with a 3.83 FIP and a nearly a 37% K rate with a 6.2% walk rate. He has done this by being in the 97th percentile in chase rate and 96th percentile in wiff rate, per Baseball Savant. He throws two main pitches: a 4-seam fastball and a slider. This is a big change from his previous arsenal — he used to throw his changeup more often and has completely dumped his curveball and started throwing the slider. Though he has had a lot of success with his new pitching strategy, there is one area he has had some struggles. He has allowed 12 homers in 61 innings, 8 of those off his fastball. Maybe Albert Pujols will hit 699 against this lefty.
On Saturday the Cardinals face Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has had a few years of injuries which slowed him down a bit, but he looks back to form in 2022. In just over 109 innings he has a 2.39 ERA and 2.50 FIP. He is striking out over nine per game while walking under 2 and has a HR/9 of 0.66. As he has gotten older Kershaw has shifted his pitching strategy. He throws his 4-seamer much less and his slider more. He throws his slider over 43% of the time and his 4-seamer almost 40% of the time. He also notably throws a curveball pretty much the rest of the time. He is a bit tougher to hit homers off of, but Pujols is likely to get this start against a lefty so be ready to watch these at bats.
Tyler Anderson toes the rubber on Sunday. The Cardinals faced him earlier this season in their first series against the Dodgers. In that game he went six innings, allowing only three hits and no runs on four strikeouts and two walks. Anderson is another lefty having a career season with the Dodgers. He doesn’t strike out many, but also doesn’t give up many homers. In 2022 he has started throwing his changeup way more and it has become his best pitch — it has a run value of -16 per Baseball Savant. He throws a 4-seamer the most, then his changeup, then a cutter. Another lefty pitcher means another likely Pujols start.
On offense the Dodgers made a big addition in the offseason with Freedie Freeman. Freeman currently has a 157 wRC+ and leads the Dodgers with 6.7 fWAR. Up and down the lineup is pretty stacked with Mookie Betts second on the team with 6.4 fWAR and Trea Turner at 5.8.
It tough to know what to make of this series. It seems like a big one because it is a good chance to gauge the Cardinals against the league’s best team, but with the Dodgers playing for nothing at this point, how much effort can be expected from them? Hopefully the Cardinals can leave the west coast with a series win and the Brewers on the brink of division elimination.
Friday, September 23 at 9:10 pm CDT: Jose Quintana vs. Andrew Heaney
Saturday, September 24 at 8:10 pm CDT: Jordan Montgomery vs. Clayton Kershaw
Sunday, September 25 at 3:10 pm CDT: Adam Wainwright vs. Tyler Anderson