Saturday, October 07, 2023

2023 NLDS Thread: Oct 7-14 vs. Diamondbacks

Game 1 @ LA: Sat 10/7 6.20p: Clayton Kershaw vs. Merrill Kelly
Game 2 @ LA: Mon 10/9 6p: TBD vs. TBD
Game 3 @ AZ: Wed 10/11 TBD: TBD vs. TBD
Game 4 @ AZ: Thu 10/12 TBD: TBD vs. TBD
Game 5 @ LA: Sat 10/14 TBD: TBD vs. TBD

I apologize for having to put up a full series thread for this rather than individual Game Thread links. I'm going to be traveling this week--which means I unfortunately had to pass on going to Game 1, which is brutal--so I'm posting this in case I can't get to all the individual GT posts.

The Dodgers went up against the Diamondbacks in their last playoff appearance (2017), in which the Dodgers swept them out of the playoffs before advancing to eventually get cheated out of a World Series title. But the Diamondbacks scared me more this year than the heavily-vaunted Padres did; the Diamondbacks actually were in first place this year as late as July 19, before going on a nine-game losing streak that basically dropped them out of contention for good.

The Dodgers just posted their NLDS roster, and Ryan Yarbrough and Amed Rosario did not make the cut. Kolten Wong and Michael Grove did. Hmm.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

On the Dodgers' 2023 Playoffs

There's obviously a lot of stress around the Los Angeles Dodgers' 2023 playoff run, which starts Saturday against a surprising opponent in the Arizona Diamondbacks, who dispatched the favored Milwaukee Brewers with two straight come-from-behind victories to sweep the best-of-three Wild Card series.

The Diamondbacks play a fast and athletic style of baseball that is basically the anti-Max Muncy, finishing the season in second place (84-78) and earning the final NL Wild Card (and playoff) spot. And though they went only 1-for-10 with RISP in Game 1 against the Brewers, and were caught stealing twice in their four attempts, they rode a bevy of relievers in the first game before deploying starter Zac Gallen (6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 Ks and 3 BB) for a more conventional win in the second game (when they went 3-for-5 with RISP).

Leadoff hitter and ROY candidate Corbin Carroll batted .571 with a 1.810 OPS in the series, and cleanup hitter Christian Walker mashed his way to a .375 BA. The Diamondbacks look potent, and they still have starter Merrill Kelly (12-8, 3.29 ERA in the regular season) primed and ready to go.

Sure, the Dodgers were 8-5 against Arizona this season--but we were 5-1 against the Brewers. I'm a little concerned here to be facing Arizona in the NLDS.

But then again, we can't forget that the Dodgers--after an off-season in which they lost Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger, and effectively Gavin Lux--shouldn't even be in the playoffs in the first place. Our pitching rotation was a disaster, with losses of Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Julio Urias; the failed Noah Syndergaard experiment; and the inability of Walker Buehler to rejoin the team this year. Even our Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw--who leads the Dodgers in IP this year with a puny 131.2 IP (apparently this is one of the lowest IP numbers ever for a player leading his team)--spent much of the year on the IL.

This was supposed to be the Dodgers' rebuilding year. Many predicted we wouldn't even compete.

The big-spending Padres were picked by some to win the 2023 World Series.

And instead, the Dodgers--languishing in third place (four games back) in mid-June, took the divisional lead on July 14 and never looked back, eventually winning the NL West by 16 games. It marked the Dodgers' fourth consecutive full-season with the Dodgers winning at least 100 games (and three in a row, accounting for the pandemic-shortened year).

This 2023 season is already absolutely amazing.

Our bullpen was one of the worst in the majors at the All-Star Break, and somehow that crew (augmented by Joe Kelly) has locked it down since August. We even eked a 7-2 record out of midseason pickup Lance Lynn (who is not easy to pick up, literally), who gave up more home runs this year than any other player in the major leagues.

Even our light-hitting shortstop, Miguel Rojas, started hitting home runs late in the season. Talk about unexpected.

So sure, the scrappy and full-of-momentum Diamondbacks will be a big test for us. And should we be lucky enough to advance, the Braves look unstoppable this year (as they lead fangraphs' World Series forecasts by a healthy projection), and last year's NL Champion Phillies look just as hot and hungry as they were last year.

But I'm just impressed that we are even here in the playoffs at all. Credit to Andrew Friedman for constructing this roster, and to Dave Roberts for getting the most out of this year's crew.

If we can advance, I'll be stoked.

But even if we can't--this year was one for the ages, and worthy of celebration.

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

2023 NLDS Update: Diamondbacks It Is


Pretty impressive by the underdog Diamondbacks, who took both games on the road for the series victory (Texas did the same thing @ Tampa Bay).

Game 1 of the NLDS is at Dodger Stadium on Saturday. Clayton Kershaw takes the mound for the Dodgers; no starter has been named yet for the Diamondbacks.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Scoreboard Watching: NL Wild Card Game 2s (October 4)

4p: Diamondbacks' Zac Gallen @ Brewers' Freddy Peralta (D'backs lead 1-0)
5p: Marlins' Braxton Garrett @ Phillies' Aaron Nola (Phillies lead 1-0)

The Dodgers can rest up while seeing if the Diamondbacks can prevail and steal another game in Milwaukee, or if the Brewers can send this series to a rubber match Thursday. The Brewers were the overwhelming favorites for this series, but Arizona's Game 1 win now gives them a 72% chance of advancing.

Starting to get nervous.

Oh, and there's another NL Wild Card game at hand, too. And two other AL Wild Card games (first pitch, 12p (Rangers @ Rays, Rangers lead 1-0) and 1p (Blue Jays at Twins, Twins lead 1-0).

These Wild Card series are nuts. If any of the Brewers, Marlins, Rays, and Blue Jays lose--they're done for the year. Yikes!

Monday, October 02, 2023

At-Game 161 Thread: Into The (Baby) Lions' Den

This is how close we were at Oracle Park. Wow.

Saturday night, I went up with a friend to Oracle Park to see the Dodgers fall to the Giants, 2-1. The game itself was kind of a bummer of an evening, with the only redeeming takeaway being Mookie Betts registering his 107th and final RBI of the 2023 season, driving in David Peralta in the top of the fifth to momentarily tie the game at 1-1.

But even though starter Clayton Kershaw was cruising (having given up only a solo HR earlier), he was undone by Max Muncy's ineptitude at third base on two consecutive plays in the sixth. First, with two runners on and no out, Muncy is hit a ball that he foolishly decides on which he can try to pull a 5-4-3 double play (he didn't), so the runner on first is safe and the lead runner, whom Muncy could have either tagged out or just raced to the third base bag, is now safe at third. The following batter, Wilmer Flores, again hits a ball to Muncy, who promptly botches the play and allows the runner on third to easily score. Michael Grove came in to escape the jam, but the damage was already done--and worse off, Clayton Kershaw, in what could be his final appearance as a pitcher let along possibly as a Los Angeles Dodger, was on the hook for the loss, his first since May 21.

Also want to call out that many Giants fans--and the crowd was about 50-50 from where we were sitting--applauded as Kershaw left the mound for the dugout in the sixth. That might be his last regular season start, as a Dodger or as a player in total. I was excited to be there to see it, even if the result wasn't what I had hoped.

Kershaw, grabbing some food before his start.

Muncy also went 1-for-4 and I know his OPS is over .800 and his WAR is 2.6 (ahead of JD Martinez and Jason Heyward, for example). But he's a three-outcome hitter and more often than not, it's a strikeout (his 153 Ks on the year is second only to James Outman) or a weak fly out to the infield. And his defense is a disaster, as evidenced by this debacle Saturday night.

The Dodgers ultimately ended up losing when, having just reached on a two-out single, Chris Taylor was thrown out trying to advance to second. Upon exiting the stadium, I heard another Dodger fan (and there were plenty of them at this game, which was great) mutter about how Taylor shouldn't have been running with David Peralta at the plate. But with Austin "Automatic Out" Barnes batting behind Peralta, Taylor really didn't have another option. It was then or never. He had to try to get into scoring position for Peralta.

And anyway, the game was meaningless for the standings, and it felt like a low-stakes game in kind. The Giants' season ended the following day, and they go into the offseason having shed themselves of smarter-than-everyone-else manager Gabe Kapler and a lot of pressure to make a bold move after striking out on both Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa last offseason. The Dodgers rest up during the Wild Card round and prepare to face either the Brewers or Diamondbacks next week in the NLDS.

We move on. The Giants stay home.

On Saturday, the Dodgers didn't get their 100th win of the season (though they did on Sunday afternoon). Nor did Mookie get his 40th HR or Freddie his 30th HR or 60th double (none of which happened on Sunday, either). So from that perspective, it was a bummer.

I end up the season 5-5, counting this road game.

That said, my friend (who invited me to the game) had incredible seats, first row right down the first base line. And even with the quicker pace of play, the game gave us enough time to talk and reminisce about the rivalry, how we got into our respective NL West fandoms. We shared perspectives on empty nest syndrome as well as the difficulties of aging. And we got to watch some great athletes and a stadium full enough to keep the seagulls away for one evening. It was a great night.

I noticed that the Oracle Park scoreboard seems sharper than our Diamondvision screen at the Stadium. The Giants also have more quiet time between innings and pitches, a stark contrast to the aural barrage that happens at Dodger Stadium. And they have stupid between-innings traditions--namely, a sing-along set to Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" (because nothing strikes fear in one's opponent like a 90's one-hit wonder from the Dawson's Creek soundtrack)--but at least it wasn't as insipid as the Food Truck dot racing animation that they've been running this year at Dodger Stadium. But overall it was a good night.

Actually, it's always a good night at a ballpark. This year, I got to a game at Yankee Stadium (my first at new Yankee) as well as here at Oracle Park. I also got in a game at the Dayton Dragons (the Reds' High-A affiliate) as they hosted the Lansing Lugnuts.

Man, I do love baseball.