NLCS Game 1: Let’s Get This Party Started

buschstadiumAndre Ethier is back! …And he’s hitting seventh, for just the second time since 2009. And people aren’t pleased by that, because there’s always something to complain about.

Normally, I’d be on board with that. Mark Ellis was one of the lesser Dodger hitters in the NLDS, and is one of the weaker bats in the lineup overall. You don’t generally want those guys getting the most plate appearances, and you especially don’t want Hanley Ramirez batting without men on base. Ethier has at least homered off of Cards starter Joe Kelly before, while Ellis is hitless in eight tries.

Dodgers
Cardinals
LF
Crawford
2B
Carpenter
2B
M.Ellis
RF
Beltran
SS
Ramirez
LF
Holliday
1B
Gonzalez
1B
Adams
RF
Puig
C
Molina
3B
Uribe
CF
Jay
CF
Ethier
3B
Freese
C
A.Ellis
SS
Kozma
P
Greinke
P
Kelly

But tonight, I think it’s important to remember that Ethier has barely played in an entire month, and putting him out there in center field represents a pretty sizable risk, given what we’ve heard about the state of his ankle. If it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t going to work and that you need Skip Schumaker out there, well, I don’t think any of us wants to see him batting any higher than is absolutely necessary.

If Ethier holds up, you can play with the order in a later game; for now, I don’t mind it. Besides, suddenly a 6/7/8 of Juan Uribe, Ethier, and A.J. Ellis, well, that’s not a bad bottom of the order at all. (Especially with Zack Greinke hitting too.)

We learned a little more about the pitching staff  – Hyun-jin Ryu will start Game 3 and Ricky Nolasco 4, as expected, and Chris Capuano is not hurt — but that’s a discussion for another time. For now? NLCS IS GO.

Fri 10/11Sat 10/12Sun 10/13Mon 10/14Tues 10/15Wed 10/16Thurs 10/17
RR. Belisario9105
LJ.P. Howell152026
RK. Jansen51626
RC. Marmol26
RB. Wilson281411
RC. Withrow2544
RE. Volquez

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Pirates @ Cardinals: The Right to Lose to the Dodgers

buschstadiumAs a baseball fan, any time there’s a winner-take-all scenario, like we’ll see in tonight’s NLDS Game 5 between St. Louis and Pittsburgh and tomorrow’s ALDS Game 5 between Oakland and Detroit, it’s a win. Playoff baseball is always great, but playoff baseball where one team is guaranteed to go home is unlike anything else. You end up in “all hands on deck” scenarios, where just about no one is off limits, where managers agonize over every decision, and while that often means four-hour games, it just as often ends up with memories that last for years.

And as a Dodger fan, knowing that the Dodgers have no such concerns and can kick back and watch their NLCS opponent fight for their very lives tonight? Well, that’s just gravy.

Pirates
Cardinals
LF
Marte
2B
Carpenter
2B
Walker
RF
Beltran
CF
McCutchen
LF
Holliday
1B
Morneau
1B
Adams
RF
Byrd
C
Molina
3B
Alvarez
CF
Jay
C
Martin
3B
Freese
SS
Barmes
S
Kozma
P
Cole
P
Wainwright

In fact, I hope this game goes 27 innings. I hope that Gerrit Cole is followed by Francisco Lirianowho is available tonight — and totally screws up the Pittsburgh rotation. Or if the Cardinals win, that’s fine too, because Adam Wainwright is going tonight and he likely wouldn’t be available until Game 3 of the NLCS.

There’s arguments to be made for both sides, from the Dodger perspective. Obviously, a Pittsburgh win means that the Dodgers get home field advantage and don’t need to get on a plane, instead starting the NLCS at home as well as ending it there, should the series go to six or seven games, so that’s probably where my bias is tonight.

But more importantly — no video yet, but hopefully soon — A.J. Ellis was just interviewed on MLB Network’s “Intentional Talk,” where he mentioned (paraphrasing here) that “all the sabermetric guys tell me to stop bunting, no one bunts anymore. Listen to me Mattingly, no more bunting!” Later in the interview, Mattingly came out while Ellis was still on the air to (jokingly, with a big smile) inform him that he didn’t like the comments and that Tim Federowicz would be starting instead. Oh, and Michael Young taped up A.J.’s nipples. No, I’m not providing more context.

As I said on Twitter, I certainly do like Ellis as a catcher. But I think I’d also be pretty okay if he retired after the season to immediately start doing the road broadcasts with an eye on replacing Vin Scully someday, wouldn’t you?

2013 NLDS Game 4: So It’s Clayton Kershaw

Lesson learned: Never, ever trust a public statement made by a baseball official. Despite what pitching coach Rick Honeycutt had said, Ricky Nolasco will not get the start today. Instead, Clayton Kershaw goes on short rest for the first time in his career.

This is both what I feared would happen ans expected might happen, for all the reasons we outlined earlier. I don’t like testing Kershaw on three days rest, I prefer setting him up for NLCS Game 1, I worry now about starting Nolasco in the NLCS after weeks of rest, and this introduces the non-zero risk of
Hyun-jin Ryu starting that first NLCS game if things go poorly tonight.

Braves
Dodgers
CF
Heyward
LF
Crawford
RF
J.Upton
2B
M.Ellis
1B
Freeman
SS
Ramirez
LF
Gattis
1B
Gonzalez
C
McCann
RF
Puig
3B
C.Johhnson
3B
Uribe
SS
Simmons
CF
Schmukaer
2B
E.Johnson
C
A.Ellis
P
Garcia
P
Kershaw

But while I don’t love it, I do get it. There was real reason not to like this matchup for Nolasco, who after allowing two runs or fewer in 10 of his first 12 Dodger starts — and no more than three runs in all of those starts — then gave up five, six, and five in his final three starts of the year.

The first of those was a particular disaster, since he lasted only 1.1 innings against the Giants at home in Dodger Stadium. With Chris Capuano all but certainly unavailable tonight after throwing 46 pitches in relief of Ryu last night, and Paco Rodriguez likely either unavailable (25 pitches) or just undesirable (looked bad, gave up a long homer) and J.P. Howell maybe available but limited after 24 pitches, the Dodgers risked a short start with no long man available, a role Nolasco can now fill.

Also not exactly working in Nolasco’s favor — and you know I don’t like to use pitcher-vs-batter stats, so the fact that I am here should tell you how overwhelming this is — is that Brian McCann simply owns Nolasco in a way that’s just not right. In 61 plate appearances, McCann has a line of .345/361/.828, including eight — eight! — homers.

Now sure, a lot of that came back in 2008 and 2009, which may not be super relevant in 2013 since each are very different players. But the last two times they’ve faced — in Nolasco’s final start with Miami in July, and last July 31 — McCann has taken Nolasco deep.

So again, I get it. It’s just really risky, and if Kershaw doesn’t respond well tonight after throwing over 120 pitches three days ago, it could backfire terribly. Here’s to hoping I get to see a clincher at the park tonight.

Fri 10/11Sat 10/12Sun 10/13Mon 10/14Tues 10/15Wed 10/16Thurs 10/17
RR. Belisario9105
LJ.P. Howell152026
RK. Jansen51626
RC. Marmol26
RB. Wilson281411
RC. Withrow2544
RE. Volquez

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2013 NLDS Game 2: Dodgers @ Braves, Part 2

1300 comments deep, and time for a new game post. The Braves are up 2-1 in the sixth. Apologies for going all Morosi on you, but this is a good fact:

— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) October 4, 2013

 

2013 NLDS Game 2: Dodgers @ Braves

turner

As expected, the Dodgers roll out the exact same lineup as they did in Game 1, other than swapping out Clayton Kershaw for Zack Greinke. The Braves do as well, so I guess we get more Evan Gattis in left field, so that’s pretty fun. No Scott Van Slyke against lefty Mike Minor, but I don’t think any of us really expected otherwise.

Not to shortchange Greinke, but I’m still not entirely over what Kershaw did last night. As I wrote at FanGraphs this afternoon, he not only blew away the Braves by abandoning his fastball after the third inning last night, he did so with the help of A.J. Ellis:

Dodgers
Braves
LF
Crawford
CF
Heyward
2B
M.Ellis
RF
J.Upton
SS
Ramirez
1B
Freeman
1B
Gonzalez
LF
Gattis
RF
Puig
C
McCann
3B
Uribe
3B
C.Johnson
CF
Schumaker
SS
Simmons
C
A.Ellis
2B
E.Johnson
P
Greinke
P
Minor

While all appropriate credit is due to Kershaw here, it’s important to remember the role the catcher has in this situation; in this case, Ellis and Kershaw are close friends (and occasional parody television show hosts), and it was the backstop who made the call to change the game plan:

**Ellis said the light bulb went on when Andrelton Simmons was handcuffed by a slider to strike out with runners on the corners to put down a fourth-inning rally.

“It was an unhittable 3-2 slider and it set the tone for the rest of the game,” Ellis said. “It reminded me how good his slider is and we had to use it more. That’s him right there. The pitcher he’s become, not just the thrower.”**

Of course, Greinke comes into this game on a streak that’s worthy of Kershaw, allowing two earned runs or fewer in 15 of his last 16 starts. Minor’s very good, but for the second game in a row, the Dodgers have the definite advantage on the mound. A win tonight would send them back home up 2-0, with a chance to clinch behind Hyun-jin Ryu on Sunday.

Fri 10/11Sat 10/12Sun 10/13Mon 10/14Tues 10/15Wed 10/16Thurs 10/17
RR. Belisario9105
LJ.P. Howell152026
RK. Jansen51626
RC. Marmol26
RB. Wilson281411
RC. Withrow2544
RE. Volquez

Dodgers tickets