The cases for, against a D-backs series win over Dodgers in NLDS
It’s no secret the Arizona Diamondbacks are underdogs against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series.
Even so, the D-backs still have some aspects of the matchup going for them, such as their 11-8 record against the Dodgers in the regular season.
That makes a case for and against a D-backs win compelling enough, so with that, Kellan Olson makes the case for a series win and Kevin Zimmerman makes the case against it.
Let me start my case by saying the NL Wild Card Game was anything but encouraging. Zack Greinke’s performance was not worthy of his hefty price tag, and using Robbie Ray to rule him out for Game 1 decreased the team’s odds of winning the series.
With that in mind, I’ll still ride with those two guys in a series.
Greinke went 17-7 this season with a 3.20 ERA, giving Arizona the ace they paid for in December of 2015. The confidence in Greinke may be wavering after his performance Wednesday, but don’t be swayed by a one-game sample size. Greinke will be back in form in the NLDS.
Looking beyond Greinke’s general ability and into a more specific matchup breakdown, Ray’s numbers against the Dodgers are stupendous in 2017.
In five starts this season, Ray is 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA. Over those 31.2 innings, Ray has struck out 53 Dodgers, good for 15.1 strikeouts per nine innings, three full punch-outs ahead of his season average.
The question now becomes how many games Ray and Greinke will start in the series, but Arizona has something else going for them in this series, and it’s their success hitting off lefties this year.
Los Angeles could potentially start three of them: Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, Rich Hill in Game 2 and Alex Wood in Game 4, if necessary.
To start with Kershaw, his absurd 2.31 ERA on the season has not been as good since he returned from the DL in the start of September. Kershaw’s six outings in the month resulted in a 3-2 record while posting a 3.48 ERA. Impressive numbers, but nothing untouchable.
Hill struggled with the D-backs all season. In four starts, he went 0-3 with a 5.03 ERA, allowing 11 earned runs over 19.2 innings.
With the possible trio of lefties, Arizona will look to lean heavily on the heart of the order: Chris Iannetta, Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez.
Goldschmidt’s average jumping from .293 to .311 off lefties is mostly normal, but the last two really jump off the page.
Iannetta is hitting .300 in 80 at-bats off left-handed pitching this year, good for a .404 OBP and six home runs, easily topping his home run rate against righties of 11 home runs in 192 at-bats. He’s a bad hitter against righties at .234 on the year, but get him in there against a lefty and he’s worthy of a spot near the top of the order.
As for Martinez, the world is well-aware of his dominance against lefties. Martinez leaps from an above average .283 hitter against righties to an explosive .376 off left-handed pitching, posting an equally absurd .464 OBP and .892 slugging percentage.
The D-backs will need those three hitters to step up big in Los Angeles for those two lefty matchups, especially in Game 1, when Kershaw will face Taijuan Walker.
Take one of those games and you’ve got an even series headed back to Chase Field with a high chance of starting Greinke or Ray in two of those three remaining games. I think that’s how the D-backs win this series. — Kellan Olson
I’m going to keep this simple.
Hate to burst the “D-backs can beat Kershaw” bubble, but the man has held every Arizona player save for Chris Owings, Chris Iannetta and J.D. Martinez below a .250 average through their meetings this year.
Owings hasn’t played since July 30. Martinez has faced Kershaw in eight at-bats, so his three hits — which included a home run and a double — and .375 average only hold so much weight (OK, so he’s still been deadly against everyone he’s faced over the past month).
But looking further, Goldschmidt is a lifetime .227 batter against Kershaw, and A.J. Pollock is .226. We’ve now listed all the players on the D-backs’ roster who hit above .200 against the lefty ace.
Even considering Walker’s 2-0 record and 1.64 ERA in games at Dodger Stadium this season, it would still be considered against the odds for Arizona to pull off a Game 1 win.
If they fall down 1-0 in the series, they’d need to then get another strong start from Patrick Corbin, or Greinke and/or Ray on short rest before the series heads back to Chase Field.
Saturday starter, lefty Rich Hill, has been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde home and away from Los Angeles.
The odds of a Game 1 win appears low, and a split in L.A. doesn’t feel like a much more certain thing.
Even a split would lead to this: Kershaw would be waiting for a potential Game 5. The chances of the D-backs advancing to the NLCS in four or fewer games aren’t great.
Every moment matters, and every game matters. That’s why Kershaw getting a Game 1 start against neither of Ray or Greinke is being given so much weight. That he could go twice in this series might be too much for the Diamondbacks. — Kevin Zimmerman
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