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Dodgers Dugout: NLDS preview (Dodgers win in 5)

Justin Turner
This is the Justin Turner Dodger fans hope to see in the postseason.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I sincerely hope the Dodgers have come up with a newer, happier ending to this movie.

NLDS preview

The playoffs are here. Dodgers vs. Nationals, Game 1. Here’s what to look for:

--The Dodgers catch a break because the Nationals used Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the wild-card win over Milwaukee. That means Patrick Corbin will start Game 1 for them. But is it really a break? Corbin pitched seven shutout innings against the Dodgers earlier this season. Lifetime he is 5-9 with a 3.36 ERA against the Dodgers.

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--The Nationals bullpen may have been worse than the Dodgers this season. Closer Sean Doolittle was 6-5 with a 4.05 ERA and 29 saves. The revelation has been former Dodger Daniel Hudson, who is touching 100 mph on his fastball and was 3-0 with six saves in 25 innings this season, giving up 18 hits and four walks to go with 23 strikeouts. A quick comparison of the bullpens:

Dodgers, 44-24, 3.85 ERA, 44 saves, 29 blown saves, 37.7% of inherited runners scored

Nationals, 27-33, 5.68, 40 saves, 29 blown saves. 41.6% of inherited runners scored

If the Dodgers can work the count and get the Nationals’ starting pitchers out as early as possible, they should be able to take advantage of the bullpen.

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--Justin Turner. Is he healthy? He is a big key to the offense and their most consistent hitter. If he’s not ready, then that could cause Cody Bellinger to want to do more, which is when Bellinger gets himself into trouble.

--Walker Buehler starts Game 1. If the dominant Buehler shows up, that would be great. I would expect Hyun-Jin Ryu, who was dominant at home this season (10-1, 1.93 ERA at home), to start Game 2, with Kershaw pitching Game 3 in Washington.

--Really, what it comes down to is this: The Dodgers need to remember what helped them win 106 games. A patient offense that worked the count and jumped on a pitcher’s mistakes. If they revert to the more free-swinging team that showed up against the Yankees earlier this season, then they could lose.

--I think whichever team wins this series will go on to the World Series.

--My prediction: Dodgers in 5. But I’m more nervous about this series than any other NL playoff series the last two years.

--We’ll be going pretty much daily during the playoffs, breaking down each game. Hopefully we will be breaking down 11 more victories this season.

The roster

It won’t be officially announced until today, but it looks like it will be … well, heck, let’s let our beat writer, Jorge Castillo, let you know, with today’s probable Game 1 lineup:

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PROJECTED LINEUP VS. LHP (AVG, HR, RBI)

1B David Freese — .315, 11 HR, 29 RBI

A clubhouse leader who mashed left-handed pitching in his limited role this season.

2B Max Muncy — .251, 35 HR, 98 RBI

Proved 2018 wasn’t a fluke with an All-Star season, but is playing with a fractured right wrist.

3B Justin Turner — .290, 27 HR, 67 RBI

Battled injuries lately, but tied a career high in home runs and is a proven playoff performer.

CF Cody Bellinger — .305, 47 HR, 115 RBI

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A year after sitting against left-handers, Bellinger is the favorite to win NL MVP.

LF A.J. Pollock — .266, 15 HR, 47 RBI

Was moved over from center field for September and posted an .885 OPS in the second half.

SS Corey Seager — .272, 19 HR, 87 RBI

Is finally healthy for the postseason and heated up at the right time in September.

RF Kiké Hernandez — .237, 17 HR, 64 RBI

A versatile defender and streaky hitter with a history of big hits in the postseason.

C Will Smith — .253, 15 HR, 42 RBI

Burst onto the scene with 12 home runs in 28 games when called up before struggling in September.

The Dodgers used 139 different batting orders and 125 defensive lineups this season. They were versatile, deep, and unafraid to experiment. While they don’t employ as many platoons as last October, some of the lineup will change depending on the starting pitcher’s handedness. The middle of it will not. Max Muncy, Justin Turner, and Cody Bellinger fueled the offense all season, and a healthy Corey Seager could make an impact after Tommy John surgery kept him from the fun last year. The Nationals have taken a different approach. They used just 106 batting orders and 81 defensive lineups during the regular season. They feature speed at the top with Trea Turner and Adam Eaton followed by Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto, perhaps baseball’s most dangerous one-two punch.

RESERVES

OF Joc Pederson — .249, 36 HR, 74 RBI

Hit all 36 of his home runs against right-handed pitchers.

IF/OF Chris Taylor — .262, 12 HR, 52 RBI

Another versatile defender with some pop in his bat, especially against left-handers.

2B Gavin Lux — .240, 2 HR, 9 RBI

A September call-up, the Dodgers’ top prospect will start against right-handed pitchers.

C Russell Martin — .220, 6 HR, 20 RBI

Adeptly handled pitching staff as the backup catcher all season and will likely catch Hyun-Jin Ryu.

IF/OF Matt Beaty — .265, 9 HR, 46 RBI

Finished the regular season 1 for 23, but regularly supplied good at-bats as a rookie.

The Dodgers are the deeper ballclub and will use that depth aggressively. Pederson sits against left-handers but will pinch-hit at the first sight of a right-hander. Taylor’s defensive versatility provides another wrinkle. The Nationals, meanwhile, practice a more static strategy. Howie Kendrick or Matt Adams, whichever first baseman doesn’t start, will be their most dangerous option off their bench.

STARTERS

Clayton Kershaw — 16-5, 3.03 ERA

Rebounded from a shoulder injury in spring training to post more starts and innings since 2015.

Walker Buehler — 14-4, 3.26 ERA

Fluctuated between utterly dominant and very inefficient in first All-Star season.

Hyun-Jin Ryu — 14-5, 2.32 ERA

The majors’ leader in ERA and a candidate for the NL Cy Young Award.

Rich Hill — 4-1, 2.45 ERA

Convinced team he could pitch through MCL injury after aggravating the knee in September.

These teams’ starters finished atop the majors in cumulative earned-run average. The Dodgers were first with a 3.11 mark. The Nationals were second at 3.53. Both employ a trio of All-Star caliber pitchers. Patrick Corbin, a left-hander, will start Game 1 for Washington after Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg were needed to win the Wild Card game. The Dodgers’ troika of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Hyun-Jin Ryu is fresh. Rich Hill is slated to start Game 4, if necessary, on an injured left knee.

BULLPEN

Kenley Jansen — 3.71 ERA

His days as a dominant reliever are over, but he remains the closer — for now.

Joe Kelly — 4.56 ERA

His regular season ended with a mysterious injury, leaving questions about his availability.

Pedro Baez — 3.10 ERA

Has morphed from fan scapegoat to the team’s most consistent reliever.

Adam Kolarek — 0.77 ERA

On the roster for one purpose: to get left-handed hitters out.

Kenta Maeda — 4.04 ERA

Back in the bullpen for the postseason. He’s a weapon against right-handed batters.

Julio Urias — 2.49 ERA

Spent the season in an unusual limited role before he was unleashed in September.

BULLPEN BUBBLE

Dustin May — 3.63 ERA

The 21-year-old right-hander is new to the bullpen, but has the stuff to overwhelm hitters.

Tony Gonsolin — 2.93 ERA

Another rookie moved to the relief corps. His fastball-splitter combination can be deadly in the role.

Ross Stripling — 3.47 ERA

Bounced between the rotation and bullpen again this season. Can supply multiple innings.

Caleb Ferguson — 4.84 ERA

Found his groove down the stretch once he started landing his curveball for strikes.

The Dodgers’ playoff bullpen does not resemble the unit the club featured for most of the season. Only Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, and Joe Kelly began the season as relievers. Converted starters, including rookies Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, and Adam Kolarek, a left-handed specialist, were added to bolster the group. The Nationals improved their historically bad bullpen with deadline acquisitions. And yet the department remains a weakness the Dodgers can exploit if they can chase the Nationals’ starters early.

Dodgers vs. Nationals in 2019

Dodgers win series, 4-3

May 9: Washington 6, at Dodgers 0

Patrick Corbin fired seven smooth innings and Howie Kendrick hit a three-run homer in the first as the Nationals ended the Dodgers’ 10-game home winning streak.

The Dodgers had just one legitimate scoring chance against Corbin, loading the bases with one out in the fourth on a single by David Freese and walks to Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. Chris Taylor grounded into a double play to end the inning.

May 10: at Dodgers 5, Washington 0

Joc Pederson homered twice and Kenta Maeda pitched one-hit ball over six innings.

May 11: Washington 5, at Dodgers 2

Two days after signing with Washington after he was released by San Francisco, Gerardo Parra hit a grand slam in his second game with the Nationals as they rallied for the victory.

Parra’s homer came in the eighth inning off Dylan Floro.

May 12: at Dodgers 6, Washington 0

Hyun-Jin Ryu took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and Corey Seager hit a grand slam for the Dodgers. Gerardo Parra doubled with one out in the eighth for Washington’s only hit.

July 26: Dodgers 4, at Washington 2

Justin Turner hit a three-run homer with two out in the eighth to provide the difference.

July 27: Dodgers 9, at Washington 3

Rookie catcher Will Smith homered and drove in six runs for the Dodgers. Playing in his 10th major league game, Smith homered in the third inning, hit a sacrifice fly in the fourth, doubled home a run in the sixth, and broke the game open in the seventh with a bases-loaded double off the wall in left-center.

July 28: at Washington 11, Dodgers 4

Stephen Strasburg held the Dodgers to one run in seven innings, Brian Dozier and Juan Soto homered, and Anthony Rendon had three hits and four RBIs for the Nationals.

Dodgers hitters vs. Nationals this season

Will Smith, 4 for 6, two doubles, one homer, six RBIs

David Freese, 3 for 7, one homer, two RBIs

Cody Bellinger, .391 (9 for 23), one double, two RBIs

Russell Martin, .308 (4 for 13)

Alex Verdugo, .238 (5 for 21), two doubles, one RBI

Justin Turner, .227 (5 for 22), one double, two homers, five RBIs

Corey Seager, .200 (4 for 20), one double, two homers, nine RBIs

Joc Pederson, .190 (4 for 21), two homers, two RBIs

Matt Beaty, 1 for 6

Max Muncy, .167 (4 for 24), one RBI

Chris Taylor, 1 for 8, one triple

A.J. Pollock, .077 (1 for 13), one double

Kiké Hernandez, .071 (1 for 14)

Austin Barnes, 0 for 8

Rocky Gale, 0 for 1

Tyler White, 0 for 1

Travis d’Arnaud, 0 for 1

Team, .209/.302/.368, 30 runs scored, 9 doubles, 1 triple, 8 homers, 24 walks, 59 strikeouts

Dodgers pitching vs. Nationals in 2019

Julio Urias, 0-0, 0.00, 3 IP, 1 hit, 1 save

Kenta Maeda, 1-0, 0.00, 6 IP, 1 hit

JT Chargois, 0-0, 0.00 1 IP

Caleb Ferguson, 0-0, 0.00, 1 IP

Yimi Garcia, 0-0, 0.00, 3.2 IP, 2 H, 3 K’s

Pedro Baez, 0-1, 0.00, 1.1 IP, 2 H, 3 unearned runs

Hyun-Jin Ryu, 1-0, 0.61, 14.2 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 13 K’s

Walker Buehler, 0-1, 2.92, 12.1 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 13 K’s

Clayton Kershaw, 1-0, 3.00, 6 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 9 K’s

Joe Kelly, 1-0, 3.86, 2.1 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 2 K’s

Kenley Jansen, 0-0, 4.50, 2 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 2 K’s, 1 save

Dylan Floro, 0-0, 5.40, 1.2 IP, 3 H, 3 K’s

Rich Hill, 0-1, 5.40, 5 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K’s

Jaime Schultz, 0-0, 18.00, 2 IP, 5 H, 1 BB

Scott Alexander, 0-0, infinity, 0.0, 1 H, 1 ER

Team, 4-3, 2.61 ERA, 62 IP, 50 H, 20 walks, 59 K’s

Washington batters vs. Dodgers, 2019

Gerardo Parra, .286 (4 for 14), 1 double, 1 homer, 4 RBIs

Wilmer Difo, .286 (4 for 14)

Michael Taylor, 2 for 7

Anthony Rendon, .280 (7 for 25), 3 doubles, 4 RBIs

Brian Dozier, .280 (7 for 25), 1 double, 1 homer, 2 RBIs

Howie Kendrick, .238 (5 for 21), 1 double, 1 homer, 4 RBIs

Trea Turner, .231 (3 for 13)

Victor Robles, .227 (5 for 22), 1 double, 1 triple

Kurt Suzuki, .200 (3 for 15)

Juan Soto, .188 (3 for 16), 1 homer, 5 RBIs

Adam Eaton, .174 (4 for 23), 1 double, 1 triple, 2 RBIs

Yan Gomes, .091 (1 for 11), 1 homer, 2 RBIs

Matt Adams, 0 for 2

Adrian Sanchez, 0 for 6

Team, .218/.291/.336, 27 runs scored, 8 doubles, 2 triple, 5 homers, 29 walks, 59 strikeouts

Washington pitching vs. Dodgers, 2019

Patrick Corbin, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7.0 IP, 3 hits, 4 BB, 8 K’s

Sean Doolittle, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.1 IP, 1 hit, 1 K, 1 save

Erick Fedde, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 IP, 1 BB

Justin Miller, 0-0, 0.00, 1.1, 1 hit, 1 walk

Dan Jennings, 0-0, 0.00, 0.1 OP, 1 walk

Wander Suero, 0-0, 0.00, 2.0 IP, 1 walk, 1 K

Stephen Strasburg, 1-1, 2.08, 13 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 16 K’s

Max Scherzer, 1-0, 2.57, 7 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 7 K’s

Anibal Sanchez, 0-1, 3.18 ERA, 11.1 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 9 K’s

Matt Grace, 0-0, 6.00 ERA, 3 IP, 3 H, 4 K’s

Javy Guerra, 0-0, 6.00 ERA, 3 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 3 K’s

Joe Ross, 0-1, 9.53 ERA, 5.2 IP, 9 H, 2 BB, 9 K’s

Michael Blazek, 0-0, 13.50 ERA, 2 IP, 2 H, 3 BB

Kyle Barraclough, 0-0, 22.50, 2.0, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 K

Tony Sipp, 0-1, infinity, 0.0, 1 hit, 2 ER, 1 BB

Team, 3-4, 4.28 ERA, 61 IP, 46 H, 24 BB, 59 K’s

Recent history

Most of the members of the 2019 Dodgers have made multiple postseason appearances by now. Let’s take a look at how they have fared:

Batters

Cody Bellinger: .172/.226/.336 (20 for 116), 4 homers, 45 strikeouts

David Freese (with many teams): .291/.365/.546 (57 for 196), 10 homers, 36 RBIs, 2011 NLCS and World Series MVP

Kiké Hernandez: .195/.320/.379 (17 for 87), 5 homers, 15 walks

Russell Martin (with a host of teams): .185/.300/.303 (36 for 195), 5 homers, 18 RBIs, 52 strikeouts

Max Muncy, .200/.355/.400 (10 for 50), 3 homers, 23 strikeouts

Joc Pederson, .235/.322/.471 (24 for 102), 6 homers, 38 strikeouts

A.J. Pollock (with Arizona), .214/.313/.643 (3 for 14), 1 homer

Corey Seager, .214/.291/.357 (21 for 98), 3 homers, 33 strikeouts

Chris Taylor, .265/.395/.480 (26 for 98), 4 homers, 10 RBIs

Justin Turner, .313/.420/.503 (56 for 179), 7 homers, 30 RBIs, 25 walks

Except for Freese, Taylor and Turner, that’s ugly. It points to what many suspect: When the Dodgers get into pressure situations, they abandon the patience that got them there. Look at all those strikeouts.

Pitching

Pedro Baez, 1-0, 3.86 ERA (21 IP, 13 hits, 3 homers, 12 walks, 22 strikeouts)

Walker Buehler, 0-1, 3.80 ERA (23.2 IP, 16 hits, 3 homers, 4 walks, 29 strikeouts)

Rich Hill, 1-2, 3.04 ERA (50.1 IP, 39 hits, 5 homers, 28 walks, 63 strikeouts)

Kenley Jansen, 1-1, 2.08 ERA (47.2 IP, 24 hits, 5 homers, 15 walks, 68 strikeouts, 16 saves, 3 blown saves))

Joe Kelly (St. Louis and Boston), 3-2, 2.49 ERA (47 IP, 38 hits, 2 homers, 13 walks, 41 strikeouts)

Clayton Kershaw, 9-10, 4.32 ERA (152 IP, 122 hits, 22 homers, 44 walks, 165 strikeouts)

Kenta Maeda, 2-1, 3.86 ERA (28 IP, 26 hits, 2 homers, 12 walks, 32 strikeouts)

Hyun-Jin Ryu, 2-2, 4.11 ERA (35 IP, 37 hits, 2 homers, 6 walks, 29 strikeouts)

Ross Stripling, 0-0, 4.91 ERA (7.1 IP, 10 hits, 0 homers, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts)

Julio Urias, 2-1, 4.50 ERA (12 IP, 9 hits, 2 homers, 5 walks, 10 strikeouts)

Interesting that no Dodger starting pitcher has a record above .500 in the playoffs (remember, Maeda pitches in relief in the playoffs). And there’s nothing about Kershaw’s line that screams out “Hey, he must be a multiple Cy Young Award winner!”

We also have a whole host of playoff preview stories you can check out by clicking here.

Dodgers poll

We asked: “Which team would you like to see the Dodgers face in the NLDS?” After 13,104 votes, here are the results:

Milwaukee Brewers, 62.6%

Washington Nationals, 20.9%

St. Louis Cardinals, 16.5%

Next poll: Who will win this NLDS and in how many games? Click here to vote.

NLDS schedule

All times Pacific

Game 1: Tonight at Dodgers, 5:30 p.m., TBS, AM 570

Game 2: Friday at Dodgers, 6:30 p.m., Oct. 4, TBS, AM 570

Game 3: Sunday at Washington, TBS, AM 570

Game 4*: Monday at Washington, TBS, AM 570

Game 5*: Wednesday at Dodgers, TBS, AM 570

*-if necessary.

And finally

Highlights from Game 1 of the 2018 NLDS. Watch it here.

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston. Subscribe to this newsletter by clicking here.


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